My Facebook feed recently was invaded by little girls in brightly-colored dresses. Many of my “dance mom” friends were posting pictures from “recital weekend.” Tornado will be turning three years old next month, so it’s about time for me to sign her up for dance lessons, because that is considered normal for little girls. Instead of being excited for her to undertake this rite of passage, however, I found myself conflicted about dance. Would my daughter actually benefit from spending money on these lessons? Or would it just be an attempt to rectify some perceived injustice from my own childhood?
I don’t have any pictures of myself posing in dresses with sequins and tulle, but my friends all seemed to have these recital portraits. It felt like I had missed out on an important part of growing up, as if I wasn’t part of the club. As soon as thoughts of having children twirled into my consciousness, I vowed that any little girl of mine would be able to take dance lessons.
Lacking personal experience of my own, I was fairly naïve about how much was involved with this extracurricular activity. A few neighborhood friends shared war stories about their survival of the most-recent dance season. After which, I first started to question the sanctity of that promise made so many years ago. The lessons themselves cost hundreds of dollars, require dance shoes (at least one pair) and clothing, and monopolize Saturday mornings. Then, around this time of year, it gets really crazy. You have to purchase several expensive outfits for your daughter and attend numerous weeknight rehearsals. The parents wait for hours in line to get tickets and to save the really good seats for the shows (yes, there is more than one performance). The little girls require help with special hairdos and makeup. Finally, don’t forget to show up with a bouquet of flowers for your little princess.
But what are the real benefits obtained from dance lessons at a young age? They learn coordination and develop gross motor skills. They learn how to follow instructions and develop confidence from performing in front of a crowd. However, there have to be a lot of different (and cheaper) ways to obtain these same results. We’re trying to use our money to create a better life for the whole family, instead of just spending it on everything that the American middle class deems “normal.” We’ve been able to cut costs on most of our family recreation with a little bit of extra effort and planning. I just don’t see any way to frugally participate in dance lessons. I’m doubtful that the cost of lessons is negotiable and all of the girls are required to wear matching brand-new outfits.
I’m thankful for a newly-developed perspective that allows me to question these propagated versions of success and happiness. Ultimately, I vowed that my little girl would be able to take lessons, if she wanted to dance. We shouldn’t spend money on this experience for her simply because I felt shortchanged. She is still young. Perhaps we can reconsider dance at a later time, if Tornado decides that it’s something she wants to pursue. For now, we will look into other options.
After listening to the realities of dance lessons from my neighbors, I told them “I think you’ve scared me off dance, maybe we’ll just skip it.” My statement was met with incredulous stares as opposed to any response. Dance being optional was clearly an unfathomable concept to them. I’m continuing to find that most people follow a standard roadmap for living their lives, which is why I suppose so many of them are unhappy. Choosing not to dance is just one more way we’re making mindful decisions about how to spend our time and money.