I hate tryout week. I was never nervous for myself when I tried out for things, but I am a bundle of nerves when my children try out for anything, and with four kiddos… like I said, I hate tryout week. It’s great when they make it, and I’m heartbroken for them when they don’t. The utter and complete disappointment on their faces and in their spirits kills me.
Dreams in Childhood
My daughter, Elizabeth, has been living this struggle for the last three years. From the time she was a five-year-old kindergartner, she has wanted to be on the band’s dance-line at her high school. The team is called the Rockettes, and they wear blue sparkly leotards, knee high white boots, and white gloves. All she has ever wanted was a blue sparkly, and since she wanted it, so did I.
Perseverance through Tough Times
Trying to raise children who are willing to persevere through struggles is a daunting task. It’s so much easier to just say “whatever” and move on. Watching a child struggle through rejection after rejection after rejection is shattering for a momma’s spirit as well. How many times can you say “train harder, and try again next year”? How do you encourage and not let their dreams become like ash in their mouths?
The Agony of Defeat
For Elizabeth, this was her last time to attempt making the team. She has had three unsuccessful tries at it. Each year after she realized her name was not on the list, I gave her five minutes to cry and be upset for herself. After those five minutes, she picked up her phone and texted all her friends who made the team to congratulate them while her own heart was breaking. She went to school the next day (they tryout on a Thursday) and hugged their necks and celebrated for them. After last year, when she thought she had a great tryout and didn’t make the team, she and I had a serious heart-to-heart. She felt like a loser. She felt untalented, despite everyone’s surprise that she didn’t make it. And, she felt alone. I looked at her and asked why she danced. Of course, like every teenager, the first answer was, “I don’t know.” I hate that answer more than anything. I demanded to hear from her own mouth why she danced. After a minute, she responded that she danced because she loved it. I asked if she danced to make the dance team. She said no. I would want her to look closely at her motives if she was dancing for any other reason. I asked who she was dancing for. She said herself. She should only dance for herself. So now, Elizabeth had a decision to make.
This February, Elizabeth confirmed her decision to try out for Rockettes one last time for her upcoming senior year. She said she couldn’t go through the rest of her life wondering if she could have made it. She said that if she didn’t try out for her senior year, the answer would always be no, and she needed to know if the answer might be yes.
The Longest Week
Her week for clinic was okay. She had a total come-apart the first night. Taking four AP classes, one honors class, and one senior-level class will do that to you, along with being co-editor of the yearbook, Habitat for Humanity club president (and they are about to finish the house and have the dedication), and trying to learn two dances for tryouts would stress out anyone. (Yeah, she’s a classic overachiever, and I promise, I haven’t pushed her to do everything on that list!) Monday night as she cried, I rubbed her back and then made her take a bath and go to bed. The next morning is always better after you’ve had a chance to sleep on your routine. Tuesday’s clinic was okay, but she just hoped she would be able to remember everything. The last day of clinic was the best as she and her group polished both dances. These dances were made for her: sassy, upbeat, and fun. Everyone knew that Elizabeth had tried out the past three years and not made it. Everyone knew how badly she wanted it. Everyone knew no one was working harder.
Not Wallowing in the Failures of the Past
She arrived home from tryouts around 6:30, and then began our vigil of waiting for the results to come in. The waiting is always the worst part of anything. At 7:00 we ate dinner and talked while Elizabeth kept checking the website for the names to be posted. She finally decided she was acting like a stalker, so she set a timer to go off close to 7:30 and chose to not worry about it anymore. Either she made it or she didn’t and she said she left it all on the gym floor. I had my back turned cleaning up dishes from dinner, and suddenly, my phone starts to buzz like crazy! Elizabeth screamed and started to cry and laugh. Before the timer had gone off, her friends were texting her congratulations. When we checked the list her entire group made the team! I started crying and ran over and gave her the biggest hug. Relief, happiness, and pride for my sweet child flooded my soul. I’m not proud of her because she made the team, I’m proud of her for trying one last time and not allowing the failures of her past define her future. Elizabeth knows that making Rockettes does not define who she is; it is simply something she does.
This child, this child, this child… I’ve never met one who works harder than she does. She never settles and is tenacious in her pursuits. She is kind and has a spirit that is unafraid. We went to the high school after we read the list and all her friends attacked her with hugs and congratulations, and all their moms hugged me just as hard. They know these last three years have been hard for her, and they loved seeing her name on the list just as much as their own daughters’ names. When we arrived home last night, I looked at Elizabeth with a smile on my face and said to her, “Remember,” and before I could finish she said, “to be humble and kind.” That’s my sparkly girl.