As moms, we all have great expectations of our child’s first dance class. Visions fill our heads of our little princess in a sparkly tutu and perfect ballet bun gracefully moving across the floor. She will listen to every direction, stand perfectly at attention, and graciously thank her teacher at the end of class. And then the reality sets in…her tutu is itchy and she doesn’t want to wear it, the perfect ballet bun didn’t even last the car ride over, and our princess is standing, arms folded in the corner refusing to participate. As a mom of four, I’ve been there.

My daughter’s first dance recital debut was an epic disaster. She walked out on stage, the lights came up, and she froze – she then ran to the back of the stage and stuck her head underneath the back curtain – apparently the standing theory was, “if I can’t see them, they can’t see me.” The only thing visible to the audience was her toddler tush in the air. I was on stage leading the class and helpless to do anything. My mom eventually walked on stage in the middle of the performance and drug her off the stage by her little pink ballet slippered feet. I was mortified. My daughter’s dance career, however, was not defined by this one preschool meltdown. From that humble beginning, she has gone on to be named as the top junior soloist for her age, dances on a competitive team, and danced the lead role of Clara in the Nutcracker.

We all hope that your child’s first day of dance will go off without a hitch, and we have wonderfully skilled, educated instructors to help make sure that it does. However, it is absolutely normal for children to take time to transition. Many dancers stand and don’t participate in the first class – or even several classes. Countless parents have told me, “I don’t know why she won’t do it in class, she shows me all the moves at home.” I’m here to tell you, it’s okay. They are watching, they are observing, and they are learning. I have seen little ones hide behind their mom’s legs for weeks, and often those same girls grow up to be stand out performers.

We have one young dancer who started with us as a spirited little thing who gave her teachers a run for their money. I remember one day clearly when she ran up to her reflection and licked the mirror – she was being a puppy that day. Her mother was beside herself but I just giggled and brought the puppy over to sit with the rest of the class. This beautiful young lady is now one of our top competitive dancers and graces the stage with effortless beauty every time she performs. And I have had many mirror-lickers follow in her footsteps – all of whom have become graceful, focused, strong dancers.

The moral of the story is, the road to success is constantly under construction. What may look like a failed day of dance class could be guiding your little one to just the right path. There will be less than perfect hair days, itchy dance clothes that beg to be thrown off, open space that beckons them to spin, and mirrors that look good enough to lick! We are here to reassure you that it’s all okay.

Enjoy these moments, because soon enough that little ballerina will be doing her own bun and slicking every hair in to place without your help. Her itchy skirt will be transformed to pointe shoes and beautiful tutus and you’ll wonder when you blinked and missed the time in between. That mirror she once licked will guide her movements to allow her to take the stage with confidence and touch an audience in a way that is pure magic. So enjoy each step on that path – even the less than perfect ones. Success is a journey, not a destination. – Sarah Beth Byrum