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Busy Ballerina

Today as I sat outside Laylee's piano lesson waiting for her to finish, my eyes were drawn to the tiny ballerinas whirling and twirling around the dance studio down the hall. It happened to be a class full of girls Laylee took ballet with last year. They were one year older and one year less spastic. Several of them actually resembled dancers. Watching them made me feel a little sad.

"What if Laylee's supposed to be a dancer?" I thought.

She took ballet for two nonconsecutive years, never really showing any signs of amazing aptitude. By the end of the second year she was a little more graceful, more confident and she was starting to take it very seriously, staring at herself in the mirror, focusing intently on her foot positions and hand movements. I loved watching her move, the joy that filled her face.

That was last year. This year she started first grade which means full-day school. This year I wanted to introduce her to team sports, something I never did successfully and always wished I had. She played community soccer for the first couple months of school. This year was the "right year" to start piano so she started taking lessons.

This year I gave birth to a new baby within the first month of the school year. This year we did not have the time, energy or money for ballet.

When I see the other girls dancing, I wonder if I made the right choice. She already feels overscheduled and tired and hardly able to do everything that needs to be done but I know she misses it. I miss it. I'm left with that uneasy, "What if?" feeling.

I know we can't do everything but I wonder if we're doing the RIGHT things. And although ballet or soccer seems like a small choice, our lives are made up of all the tiny decisions we've made or someone else has made for us. How different would my life be today if I'd pursued basketball instead of instrumental music? I don't know. I sucked at basketball. Maybe I could have gotten better if I'd had more time on the court. Maybe I would have spent my life feeling frustrated and wishing I could play the piano.

If I'd chosen different activities I would have had different friends, different skills, different job and school opportunities. Overall I'm really happy with the way things turned out for me. I hope Laylee will be too. It's so hard. Being the mom. Making decisions that will change the course of a person's life.

How do you do it? How do you decide what to keep and what to chuck? When I ask Laylee, she wants to do everything. As an adult it's my job to step in, protect her childhood (not to mention my bank account and personal freedom) and limit her activities. She helps me decide but she's six and I'm still in the driver's seat.

So this year I chose soccer and piano. Learning an instrument is a valuable skill and although she cries sometimes when we sit down to practice a challenging new piece, she is overcome with joy and a sense of accomplishment when she masters it. I love watching her face light up when she learns something new. It reaffirms to her that she can keep learning and that she can be or do anything.

The problem is that I don't want her to be anything. Sometimes it feels like I want her to be everything. That's where I get into trouble. For every one thing we choose to spend our time on, there are 100 other amazing adventures and aspirations that are left unfulfilled. I just don't want her to grow up feeling like she flipped the wrong page in her Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book when she was six and could never quite get to where she wanted to be.

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