I wrote the majority of Thursday’s blog, Wednesday night following the doll’s ballet class. She was whipped and exhausted and not liking her “sport” very much. Writing her likes and dislikes was easy, seeing they were eerily similar to my own. On Thursday morning, my brother and sister-in-law, through separate conversations conveyed to me something sad in reference to my daughter and ballet. Evidently something harsh happened Wednesday night that humiliated and embarrassed the doll. Mary and Elle were so appalled they talked to their parents all the way home from class, all through dinner and at bedtime. The doll never mentioned a word to me about the incident.
I wondered if my talking to her instructor would do more harm than good. While I wanted to support my daughter but not make her life a living hell because I did. I called another parent whose daughter has been dancing there several years longer than the doll, whom I know has had similar issues with this woman in the past and sought her advice. Just as I suspected, she warned me against talking to the instructor. “I’ve told my daughter, when you’re in that woman’s studio, you’re in her world, so you play by her rules…but you also consider the source.” As a big proponent of “Consider the source” rule of thumb, I agreed, deciding to talk with the doll and try to support her another way.
When the doll arrived home from school, I asked her to sit on the front stoop with me and talk. She became reticent and would not look me in the eye when I asked what happened at ballet the night before. “Well, the other day Ms. C and the older girls were saying I was making a face when she corrected me so she asked the girls to go home a draw a picture of me making a face. Helen did so and gave it to Ms. C. who hung the picture up in the class for everyone to see.” “Hmm, and how did that make you feel?” I asked. “Horrible. Like they were humiliating me and the whole class was against me.”
Have you ever wanted to strangle someone, even though you knew it was wrong? Even when doing so you knew you were stooping to their level? Even knowing you would set a bad example in your child’s eye? My friend’s advice not to do anything was sound. But I don’t want the doll to hate herself for being expressive with her face. I also did not want this woman’s bullying to defeat my daughter. Add to that my husband’s Ire when I filled him in; I had to confront her or my husband would be sitting in a jail cell right now.
When I dropped the girls off for ballet, I asked the girl behind the counter if I could speak to the instructor for a moment. Elle was with me so I asked her to sit in a far off corner. I didn’t want her to become entangled in an adult conversation. “Yes doll’s mom, how can I help you?” she asked through the sliding window into the office. “Yes, I’d like to talk to you about some picture someone drew of the doll?” “Oh yes, we’re working on stage presence and it seems that every time I correct your daughter she makes a face at me. Even the older dancers noticed this so I asked the class to draw a picture of what she looked like, so she could learn not to make that face while she’s onstage.” “Hmm I see. Can you tell me, when she’s at the recital, will you be barking corrections at her?” “Well probably not…” “Well then she would have no reason to make that face would she?”
Before she could answer I continued. “The doll has always been expressive with her face. Most of the time she is unaware she’s doing so. But now this little exercise has made her self-conscious, she believes you are purposely singling her out and humiliating her as well as turning the other dancers against her and I won’t stand for this.” I will say I was proud of myself as I did not lose my temper, I talked in a nice even tone. Immediately she went into the throes of “Oh no, that’s not what I meant at all. I’m sorry she feels this way. The picture wasn’t that bad, here let me show you…” She disappeared into her studio, where it was still posted and returned with a picture of a girl with a smirk on her face. “You see this really isn’t that bad, it’s just so the doll sees what we’re talking about…” she said.
“Okay, you’re right that’s not a bad picture for you or I…we’re adults. The doll is ten years old. Have you forgotten that?” She immediately folded up the picture to throw away and began to apologize to me. “Oh I’m sorry, I would never want the doll to think I was making her feel bad. I know ballet is hard and I love your daughter. I just want her to be her very best for the performance. But I would never want her to think anything other than dancing is an extension of God’s joy.” Then she jumped up and ran to the back and apologized to the doll. Through the door I could hear the apology and then quickly returned and said, “I’m so sorry. I will talk with the rest of the class and tell them I was wrong.”
Before I let her go, I wanted to impress upon her how hard the doll has been working to improve-and she should notice that. She in turn told me areas she’d like to see the doll improve which I laughed and said, “Well somethings like genetics are at play here…they are what they are.” She laughed a hollow laugh and with that our conversation was over. Elle and I walked out to the parking lot to the car where she said, “Aunt Marsha, that was cool.” Smiling I looked back at her and said, “You and Mary defending the doll last night was even cooler…thank you!”
Post Script: Following class, the doll and Mary exited the school wearing big smiles on their faces. “Aunt Marsha, what did you say to Ms. C? “Why what happened?” I asked. “Mom, she apologized to me and then…” “…and then, she came in and made the class apologized to the doll and….” Mary interrupted “…..and mom she said she was wrong for even bringing it up!” the doll finished. “Do you feel better?” I asked the doll. “Shaking her head up and down she smiled and said “Yes”. “Well then it doesn’t matter what I said.” Then the doll hugged me and all was right with the world….at least for today.
But, we still have about six weeks left.