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Last Dance: Reflections of A Dance Mom

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Dedicated to the Parents of the Class of 2014 who have seen their

child’s last pass, catch, pitch, serve, goal, basket, cheer,  tumble, at bat, or dance.

The plane touched down in Orlando Florida. The trip that I had been looking forward to, as well as dreading for many years, was finally here. My daughter’s drill team was competing in the Contest of Champions with drill teams, state champions all, from all over the nation vying for national honors. 

The road to get to this point has been a very rocky fifteen-year journey as a dance mom. There have been lots of peaks and many valleys. I spent the entire flight trying to count how many pairs of dance shoes I have purchased; how many dance costumes are in the attic waiting to become dress-up clothesl about the two cars and six sets of tires needed to carpool to the practices, the competitions, the recitals and private lessons.

Working Day and Night

Our daughter is graduating in a few months. She will not pursue dance in college. The realization that this was really Gretchen Rose with husband and daughterit, was sinking in my thick dance mom brain. The question became how would I react?

I am not going to lie. I am tired. In fact, I am worn out! Drill team starts at 6:30 a.m.  For three years I have gotten up before 6 a.m. for fear of oversleeping! Our daughter has been a Lieutenant for two years. My entire family has been consumed by this achievement! Even, little brother is frazzled by the comings and goings of the squad, and the drama, and the practices. 

For our daughter it is has been a full time job on top of rigorous academics. For the rest of us, it has been a full time job to help her with her full time job! I could run around and high-five everyone I see. I could scream, ”Yes, I have made it! Victory is mine!”  But, I have loved every minute of this ride. I could cry. I could cry, a lot; a virtual river of tears. I could not even make it through the Winter Olympics! Every Proctor & Gamble commercial where they said “Thanks Mom” I teared up and always answered, “You are Welcome.” And I didn't even know those athletes and winter sports are not my thing!

So it was with mixed emotions that I left baggage claim and went by taxi to “The Happiest Place on Earth.”

Funky Town  Gretchen Rose with fellow dance mom

Saturday morning found me bright and early at the ESPN Center in Orlando. There were six dances for the day starting at 9:00 a.m. and staggered all the way until 8:00 p.m.

Eleven hours of memories, reflections, and waiting for the grand finale. I was with a great group of other moms with graduating seniors. Maybe one or two girls may continue to dance in college, but for the majority of us, this was our final act. We took comfort in one another's company, and in sharing our many stories among the group. When one mom was about to crack, a light or funny story would turn a furrowed brow into a quick smile.

Staying Alive

As I watched the first few dances, I was calm, and strangely composed. Could I be the strong one in the group? As I watched the five Lieutenants dance, as well as an honor ensemble dance, I reflected on why and how our daughter had gotten us both at this point. I bribed her with ballet lessons to convince her to complete her potty training. Real ballerinas do not wear diapers, I told her.  After that first class, she never looked back or had an accident either.

Let's Groove

I remember the first recital like it was yesterday. She was four. I was at least 45 weeks pregnant with her brother. The dance was to “McCavity” from “Cats - the Musical.”  He was a magical and mystical cat with enough memories for nine lifetimes. “McCavity” did not disappoint. My daughter’s interpretation of the choreographed routine brought down the house. She just did her own dance and a star was born.

She's a Bad Mama Jama

The other routines of the day found me thinking of other eight years of dance competitions, the teachers, the friends, and the classes. Did we really spend three years fixing a left leg siècle when she kicked? Why did I stress about that? The wins and losses have all melted away after so many years. It is just a pirouette of memories. I thought of all the turns and leaps and pirouettes that were perfected in the kitchen as I was preparing dinner.  I found myself laughing most of the day. Even the worst and darkest day, I have made peace with myself.

I remember doing the unthinkable as a mom: rooting against my daughter! I was not thrilled at the prospect that she would be named  a Lieutenant in her junior year in high school. I wanted her to focus on a heavy academic load with no distractions.  When she made it, I was visibly uncomfortable. We have survived and, of course, good did come out of the stressful situation. I think she can effectively manage a multi-national conglomerate business one day.

Don't Stop the Music

As the sun set in sunny Florida, so did my time as a dance mom. The last competitive dance was about to go on. Moms rushed the floor to get as close as possible. The only word I have for that final performance is Brilliance. I have seen that dance for ten months. I have seen it danced in a gym and in my own home. On this Saturday night, it was just ethereal. Of all the dances in all the years, this is one I will remember from start to finish. Guess what? Not one left foot siècle either! 

And then the music finished. We all looked stunned. How had the song ended so quickly? I looked at my daughter’s face. I saw pure joy. I saw pride. I may have seen a bit of relief, too! I felt the tears, but pure joy just took over. We hugged and congratulated all the girls. What a great job. Their fantastic performance was rewarded with a 5th place national award. There was no time to think, and no time for emotion. There was one lDance Momsast dance.

Boogie Nights

The next night, the senior moms performed the traditional last night. Yes, we did a professionally choreographed disco number. We performed “Boogie Fever” by the Jackson 5, Earth, Wind and Fire, and “Disco Inferno”! We had all worked so hard on our routine the past 6 weeks, and all had a lot of fun, too. At the end of the never-ending minute and a half dance, the girls crashed the dance floor in shock and awe. My daughter found me and congratulated me on a job well done. Of course I said, “Thanks! It was nothing!” She guessed that I learned all of the moves from watching her dance all these years. I quickly reminded her that I, too, had been a drill team girl. Just a retired drill team girl from 30 years ago! Those moves were all mine!

We Are Family

The rest of the trip was spent in the Disney parks and celebrating like true champions. On my return to Dallas, I called my mom and dad to tell them about the weekend. My mom did not miss a beat. She could not stand it any longer. She was thrilled about the 5th place national placement. She was more concerned with MY DANCE! In rapid fire succession she asked, “The mom dance! How did it go? Did any one mess up? Was it fun? Is there a video? “ ( NO!!!!) She reminded me that she was still a dance mom, too! She was just retired.  I said, “Thanks Mom! Thanks for all that you did back then. I really appreciate it! I had no idea”. She simply replied, “You are Welcome.”