At the ripe old age of 32, I know that life is filled with disappointment. Whether you have a charmed life or not, things are not always going to work out the way you'd hoped. I have come to accept this truth in my own life, but yesterday it suddenly occurred to me that now I have to accept it for another person's life, a tiny person, one so bright-eyed that I'd rather endure the most horrible disappointment imaginable than watch her deal with one ounce of it. And that, my friends, is called motherhood. Luckily, we're not talking about any life-altering disappointment here, just a little cancelled ballet class, but it was enough to bring one of us to tears (that would be me).
Ella has been talking about going to "ballerina" class for quite some time. She loves nothing more than to twirl and leap in full ballerina costume, and she has been begging us to take a dance class for at least four or five months. I waited until she turned three, then began pursuing a class that would be a good introduction- low-key, nothing too intense. I avoided places that advertised the number of awards they'd won, or the ones with glossy pictures of ten-year-olds trussed up like 1930's prostitutes. I found an inexpensive place near our house that advertised a fun, non-competitive, no recital, no polyester costume sort of dance class perfect for a wee one just starting out. About two weeks ago, I signed her up. Since that day, we've been talking about it. At least three times a day, she would ask me, "Is my ballerina class today, Mommy?" Finally, the day arrived, and I picked her up early from daycare, leotard and ballet shoes in hand, and we talked about what it meant to be in a dance class the whole way there.
Then we walked in the door, and there was no one else there, and the girl behind the counter looked surprised to see us. I tried to ignore all of these warning signs.
"We're here for the ballet class?" I said, both of our smiles plastered to our faces.
The woman did not return the smile.
"Oh gosh. I completely forgot to call you. That class was cancelled due to low enrollment."
My heart sank. Ella's head fell to my shoulder.
"I'm so sorry," the woman said. "This never happens. I just completely forgot to call."
Normally, in times like these, I would have simply said, "Oh that's okay. No big deal." I am quick to forgive peoples' mistakes. That's the number one rule of life my mother taught me. "You can't get mad at people when they do something by accident." And this has always been a relatively easy rule for me to follow, but at that moment I realized that someone disappointing me feels a lot different than someone disappointing my little girl.
I didn't say anything. I wasn't mean, but I didn't tell her it was okay, and our sullen faces revealed our feelings. Of course, if the woman had called me the day before, the class still would have been cancelled. Ella still would have been sad, but to walk in there with her leotard and shoes all ready to go was more than I could handle.
We walked out of the building and sat on the steps so I could explain things to her.
"The ballet class was cancelled, buddy."
"It means that there isn't going to be a class."
"Not enough kids wanted to go."
"Why didn't they want to do it?"
"I don't know. Because they're really silly, but we'll find another ballet class, okay?"
"No, not right now, buddy. Now we have to go home."
The look on her little face just crushed me. I couldn't hold it in. It came at the end of a very bad day I'd had, and I just couldn't control myself. I started blubbering like an idiot on the drive home.
"Mommy, why are you crying?"
"I just feel really bad that you couldn't take your class today."
"It's okay, Mommy. We'll find another class."
She held my hand as we drove home, and I realized that she was going to be fine. It was just a dance class, afterall, not a broken heart, or a cut from the volleyball team, or a rejection letter from her top-choice college. It was the first of many disappointments in her life, and I realized that I was going to have to experience all of them with her, so I'd better suck it up and show her "It's okay," even when I feel like it isn't.
And I know I won't be able to fix every disappointment in her life, but for now, it's nothing a little Swan Lake and a popsicle can't fix. Thank God for YouTube and for little girls who are a lot tougher than their mothers.