It was the third and final dance competition of the season. My daughter was performing her first solo, a hip-hop number called Perm, a compilation of Bruno Mars songs. As an eleven-year-old, the routine was kept age appropriate for a hip-hop number and showcased energy, enthusiasm, and sass. As a mom and a former dancer, I think it was a real crowd-pleaser, as it always got everyone moving and smiling.
She got on stage, and the lights were ready, shining on her as if to say, “This is your moment, girl!” She came out full of life, waving her ponytail, facial expressions on point, and her determination to finally place in overalls was on overdrive. As her mother, I knew that despite performing well at each of the former competitions, she was somewhat disappointed when she didn’t place.
She shed some tears and expressed that even though she was happy for her friends and teammates who placed first or second, she couldn’t help but feel sad that the judges wouldn’t recognize her for her hard work and efforts. She also thought that it may be the only time she ever has a solo, and she wanted to have her name called at the end of the competition and to feel proud and validated.
I told her that no matter what happened at this last competition, she made me so proud and will always be a winner in my eyes. I think she appreciated my words, but I understood how she desperately wanted this for herself.
I was shaking as the judge started the age 9-12 hip-hop category awards. Why was I reacting this way? As I tried to shake off the nerves, I looked at my daughter sitting on stage. She was biting her lip. She was wishing and praying and hoping. She was smiling for the winners, but she was distracted. She was secretly praying for her name to be called.
I think there were A LOT of girls in this category, around 30-40, maybe? But they only called the top ten. Number ten was called, and it was a teammate. I saw my daughter smile. I knew she was genuinely happy for her, but I saw the nerves creep back in.
Then they announced nine and then eight and continued. All the while, I was watching my daughter with her half smile; I was a nervous wreck. I believed I did all the right things before this. I assured her she was always amazing on stage and did a great job. My husband and I never put pressure on her. We always just encouraged her to have fun and to do her best.
I told her I was always proud of her, despite winning or losing. I told her this was all for fun and winning was just an extra perk.
And then they announced it. Fourth place goes to Reagan Dooley with Perm! I couldn’t believe it! The scream that came out of my mouth was obnoxious. “Whoooooo, whooo whoo!” I gave Abby Lee Miller some serious competition. And then the floodgates opened. I started bawling like a baby.
I looked at my daughter, and the smile on her face gave me life.
I wanted this for her so badly, and she was beaming. BEAMING! I felt her emotions all competition season, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We went through it all. I felt her stress, her nerves, her worries, and then her joy. It was like we were connected when she was on that stage.
When she came off stage, we locked eyes and hugged so tightly. “I placed, Mom!” she said, fighting back tears. “Honey, I am so proud of you!” I said as I wiped away tears. “Okay, Mom, you can stop crying now,” she said, half laughing and half mortified. But I couldn’t stop.
The emotions had to come out because I was feeling my emotions and hers.
It’s something to take on your child’s emotions in such a strong way, and I hadn’t had that experience to that capacity until that moment. It’s certainly a very scary and powerful thing to be so connected to your child in such a way. I still think about her smile when they called her name. It makes me unbelievably happy, and I’m so thankful we got to experience it together until the next dance season.