The Final Crescendo.

Last year, I wasn’t prepared for it. Now that I have some experience, I should have been prepared for it.

But I wasn’t. 

IMG_0294 (1)

 

It’s the end of another dance season and I’m surprised how sentimental it makes me. To see the hard work for months on end wrapped up into a neat little bow is not really a gift you can prepare for. And I’m not even sure it can be explained.

But I’ll try. 

IMG_0547

For months, I’ve been packing dance (and snack!) bags, tying shoes, doing hair, and working my business matters around various schedules. The dance schedule being one of them. For months, my daughter has been learning new moves, practicing “just because I want to,” and growing as a dancer. She may have even cast me in a show or two as a mermaid. Our kitchen shows are quite spectacular.

IMG_0480

 

IMG_0397

 

IMG_0621

But it’s not just us.

Countless hours have been spent orchestrating a fantastic show (in this case FOUR shows). Everything needs to be mapped out; lights, choreography, costume changes, music, times, dates, locations, photos… and that’s not including the patience required when dealing with wee ones that might not feel like dancing that day…or are just feeling cuddly or silly.

 

Finally, it’s showtime. The backstage and dressing areas are complete madness. Costumes are tossed, hair is whipped up into perfect little buns, and it’s likely you’ll slip on a pile of broken crackers if you’re not careful. Echoes fill the stairwell and doors are shut silently. Backstage with its special lighting and the voices are hushed as the crowd applauds the previous performance.

Then, the music starts. 

Fear, fatigue, and all that chaos falls away. Another beautiful performance flows in and out. Seamless. Then a silent rush downstairs for another costume change. The audience unaware of the circus that lay just a floor below.

They are also unaware of something else. 

It’s not something that can be measured or dressed up. There are no lights or glitter to illuminate the displays of kindness or human interaction that aren’t always found in day-to-day life. In fact, they might be so simple – and so small – they might go unnoticed altogether.

You’ll find it in the sharing of bows when one goes missing. It’s in the lending of bobby pins. It’s the stage moms volunteering their time to keep the flow of traffic moving and putting in the extra effort to make sure your kiddo looks their best. It’s as simple as the mom that stands ready to intercept your child for a quick costume change in case you can’t make it back to the dressing room fast enough. Or the one who doesn’t wait to be asked and comes over and says, “what do you need me to do?”

These are moments you don’t see everyday. 

And before you know it, it’s over. The memory is made. And that’s when this unexplainable feeling comes in. If I had to pick only one word?

Gratitude. I have so much gratitude for everyone that puts their whole heart, sweat, and tears into productions like this. I’m so thankful to have strong women around my daughter. They are helping to shape the person she’ll become and I couldn’t be happier to have such dedicated and caring people in her life.

It’s hard to see it all end. But I know next season is approaching fast. And then we’ll begin this circus all over again.

The crowds always part, but I’m so grateful to be with my girl and witness this final crescendo every year. 

The insignificant is significant.

Why do people feel so comfortable in what they say to little girls? 

For the record, I highly doubt this is strictly a gender issue, but in my experience of having one of each, my daughter receives far more direct comments that shut her down than my son ever did.

As an example, my daughter has been told:

  • “Shouldn’t you be finding your parents instead of talking to me about your dance bag?” (said by teenager)
  • “I’d rather stick a fork in my eye than go to your dance recital.” (said by adult)
  • “I want to play there and you’re gonna move.” (said by kid)

And that’s within the last six months.

I get that marathon recitals and marathon (seemingly insignificant) talks can be much, but how do people decide it’s okay to say these things to her? I haven’t witnessed them all being spoken, but when I have I used the moment to teach her how to handle the situation. And there are times I totally had to set the boundaries myself, “no. she’s not gonna move. and you’re gonna leave.”

In the face of these comments, for the most part she laughs it off (a tactic I use myself) and goes about her way. But there are times that this girl is crying out to be heard. It’s usually when she’s trying to say something and her brother doesn’t want to hear it, because that’s how siblings roll.

But how many times does she NOT cry out, because it’s someone she’s not that close with?

It may seem like it doesn’t hurt, but it does. To me. Here’s my little girl who’s strong, but definitely a free loving spirit and these things are being spoken into her life. Of course, there’s lots of love and care spoken too, but the negativity hangs around. It’s stickier.

So far, these comments don’t seem damaging, but at what point does it become that way? When will that little girl realize what people are saying to her? Or does she already?

Again, I don’t feel this is only a “girl issue” because I’m certain it happens to boys too, but does it really happen as often?

Inquiring minds and all. 

Side note: This post was written in the wee hours of the night. Why? Because the dance bag comment was made today (yesterday) and I somehow made the connection between this comment and so many others in my sleep. This realization was strong enough to wake me up. (Those who know me, know that when my body sleeps, it sleeps. The realization was strong on this one.)

Team Name: For the Fallen

IMG_9665Today my kids experienced their first ever 5k (on their own two feet, at least). I’d like to say it was a rockin’ experience, but no. It was quite miserable.

We didn’t want to set the bar too high, so our goal was merely to see how it goes and hopefully we can finish. 

In true New England fashion, it snowed – not a ton, but enough to worry about freezing fingers and toes. We took the risk and drove the 1h 15mins hoping the roads wouldn’t be too bad. And since we were walking, we layered up and topped it all off with snowsuits and boots.

The turnout was good. About 3,500 participants. We made it halfway without being too tired or miserable, and we peeled some layers since the kids were hot. At this point, we still had some people behind us, but we were losing ground and the people manning the water table were supportive and cheered us on. One kind man walked with us for a bit encouraging the kids, as I’m sure he could tell their spirits were low.

IMG_9670
Marching along with his “soldier backpack.”
IMG_9658
Before the race, loving the snow.

As we neared mile 2, we were well behind the pack (read: last) and a woman had joined us and said she was thankful for the company, so she wasn’t alone. In front of us we could see the next group of race staff, which indicates a turning point, but with no one in front of us we didn’t know what that turn was.

As luck would have it, that staff abandoned their post before we got there and the ever so helpful sign (you know, the one with the ARROW) directed us right. Yeah. It should have been a LEFT. (Thinking back, they probably pulled it out and moved it, but we had no way of knowing that then. Also, some bibs had a map on the back – you think any one of ours did? Nah. Too easy.)

IMG_9671
Almost there.

The experience of seeing the Mile 2 marker a second time was awesome. 

So, we had three miles under our belt and one more to go. We actually had a guy drive up and start removing the race signs in front of us. I asked him to please not remove the further ones since we were still part of the race, wanted to finish and we didn’t want to get lost again. He told us where we needed to go (now that we figured that part out) and carried on.

By this time, the kids were mis-er-a-ble. My daughter was holding up ok, but my son had already been in tears and sat on the wet ground in defeat. He said he was never doing this again. How do you tell a kid he walked a mile further than he had to?

The final mile was something spectacular. There was so much hard, and whizzing traffic, and lots (and lots) of slow walking. This was not the time to be ticked off or complain. This was a time for support, encouragement and a little nudging.

IMG_9673
Finish line.

It was also the PERFECT opportunity to talk about soldiers, their families and what kind of sacrifice they make. The pain they walk through daily and how this walk is just a small fraction of what they experience. 

With the end in sight (the finish line already dismantled), our crew soldiered on. We crossed that imaginary line and followed up with an ice cream to celebrate.

Afterward, I asked them if they were proud of their accomplishments, how they walked every bit of that race, and went even further than the rest who had signed up that day. There wasn’t excitement, but a simple “yeah, I guess.” It was a small glimmer of hope … that was confirmed later with the two of them singing the National Anthem in the backseat and my son walking around the rest of the day – wearing his race shirt with pride.

Before the race. And how we felt after too. (Thanks to the teammate who took it!)
Before the race. This is also how we felt after we got home. (Thanks to the teammate who took it!)

 

Update 4/6/16: I usually keep posts like this to a minimum and I never include who I’m talking about. It merely serves as a take away point and we look to the positive of the day. In this case, I wrote a message on the Run for the Troops 5k FB page and I was told it would be forwarded to the organizers. No response. So I sent a detailed email to the director about some of the things we went through in hopes that it doesn’t happen to anyone else:

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 5.19.15 PM

And he responded, “So sorry about your experience , I hope you return someday Bill Pennington”

Really? A potential safety issue, a nightmare of a day, and that’s it? Also, I tried approaching them civilly on social media and it was deleted. Fuel to the fire.

Folks, this is not how you handle customer complaints.

A basic customer service response should be, “I’m so sorry for your experience. Please trust we are handling the issue to ensure that doesn’t happen again. We hope you will join us again next year.” Seriously, even just “Please trust we are handling the issue to ensure that doesn’t happen again.” part would have been fine by me.

All I have to say is we will continue to support our troops, but Run for the Troops 5K in Andover, MA will not get any of my donations or rallying up teams or participants for them anymore. I truly hope the soldier we intended to support gets the support he needs.