Today turned out to be a comedy of errors with a wonderful, happy ending.
My son was so excited about his dance performance today that he could not sleep last night. He came out of his room about ten times, worried that he wasn't sleeping.
"I've got to DANCE tomorrow!" he worried, "And I'm not getting enough rest!" Pretty cute.
I too was not sleeping, but for a different reason - I had to hem the bottom of his dance pants by hand and didn't get started until around 10pm.
Despite our exhaustion we awoke without so much as a groan this morning, all of us a bit eager and excited about the day ahead. My son's teacher asked us to arrive promptly at 8am for photos and group rehearsal, so we were up at 6 and parked at the theater by 7:45. We were actually the first to arrive, which is a real feat for a family accustomed to being late.
"When will the rest of the kids get here mommy?"
"Soon honey, I hope we have the right address for the theater! Let's call Daddy to check."
Thankfully a quick Google search at home verified that yes, we were indeed at the correct location for the rehearsal. Sure enough, other mommies began to arrive with their darling little ones - most of whom were decked out in the cutest little ballet frocks and fluffy dance costumes I've ever seen. There were "butterflies", "sailors", "sunflowers", "Siamese cats". All simply adorable!
My son's blue velvet costume studded with sparkling glitter had seemed cheesy and over-the-top at home, but when I saw all of the other children I realized that he fit in perfectly and actually looked seriously cute next to his two dancing partners - Tanya* and Marie* - who were wearing glittering blue flapper costumes with even more sparkles than his. He was quite the man about town, flanked by two such pretty little girls.
Our morning seemed off to a great start!
We fumbled a bit with the safety pins for his costume but all in all, he was jazzed and I was proud that we were not only on time but ready for the rehearsal, sitting in the very first row of the large auditorium. I even remembered to bring my fancy Nikon camera, and captured some great candid shots.
So we relaxed and waited for our cue to get photos taken. We waited. We waited some more. We grinned at each other, and continued to wait.
Time passed. A lot of it!
"Mommy, when are we going to dance?" my son asked me.
"Honey, soon I think. I don't know. I don't see your teacher anywhere!"
"I hope she's okay," he worried. "I hope she's going to be here."
"Oh buddy, don't worry!" I hugged him. "She'll be here and everything is going to be really fantastic!"
Even as I said it, I couldn't help but worry that his teacher wasn't going to show for the performance. Another woman that we had never seen before seemed to be running things and she didn't seem much interested in the small children waiting at the front of the room.
I must not have been the only mother thinking these thoughts, because some of the mothers around me began to exchange glances and check their cell phones for the time.
At last, a full hour after we'd arrived, my son's teacher appeared and began to herd the little ones toward the back of the room where photos were to be taken. Happily, my son was in one of the first groups to be photographed. He looked amazing! A bright, handsome little fellow sandwiched between two precious blue frocked princesses. Best of all, he seemed truly happy.
After his photo was taken I was sure the rest of the morning would be a breeze. "Can I dance now mommy?" he asked as we headed back to our seats.
"Any minute now, honey!" I smiled broadly. His trio was listed as the third act on the programme with a rehearsal time of 8:15am. It was now after 9:15am.
Yet when the woman orchestrating the performance (not my son's teacher) began to call up groups to rehearse, she skipped my son's trio. She skipped over it again and again. My son began to look upset. She was rehearsing all of the older dance troupes
He wasn't the only one! A mother sitting behind me grew frustrated and jumped up to go find their dance teacher who was still coordinating photos. She returned with a grim look on her face.
"She says there isn't enough time to rehearse them. The photos ran behind. Well, I told her - 'We've paid a lot of money for these costumes and tickets to the show, and my child is the kind of kid who is going to stand there staring like a deer caught in the headlights when the lights come up if she doesn't get the chance to practice the dance on stage at least one time before being asked to do it in front of hundreds of people.'"
"Oh no, really?" I asked. "She's not going to rehearse them?"
"Stay here," I told my son, and asked the other mommies to watch him for a second. "I'm going to go speak with your teacher."
I found her speaking with three other mothers, and looked her right in the eye.
"Excuse me," I interrupted. "Our children are not going to rehearse?"
The dance teacher looked at me with an expression that might have been guilt, might have been annoyance. She seemed to shrink back a little. "We ran out of time," she shook her head.
Unfortunately? the Mama Grizzly in me emerged - just confirming that Mama Grizzly is a mouthy witch.
"Not very professional," I snapped. (I wish I could honestly say I hadn't snapped, but it would be a total lie.) We'll see you later."
Turning around I strode purposefully down the aisle to the other mothers and our children.
"Get your things honey," I told him gently. "They ran out of time and your teacher says there isn't time to practice today. Oh well! We'll go home and get things ready for your party instead."
"This whole thing has been so disorganized!" grumbled one of the other mommies.
I bent down to pick up my camera bag and purse, and to help my son put on his shoes.
His teacher came flying down the carpet. "They can rehearse! They can rehearse! Get them up on the stage!"
My son's face changed from ashen to overjoyed.
"Quick honey!" I smiled. "Let's get your costume fixed and get you up there!"
He raced up the stairs and I had the joy of taking photos during his first ever 'stage rehearsal'. Three minutes later the music ended, his rehearsal was over, and he skipped back to me in the audience - his excitement truly palpable. "MOMMEEEE DID YOU SEEE MEEEEE?"
"You were great!" I gave him a big hug. "Let's go home, okay?"
The rest of the morning before his show flew by in an excited, stressed out blur. After borrowing a neighbor's electric mower to cut our front lawn before our family came over to celebrate the big dance recital, the kids and I went grocery shopping to get food for our small family party and returned home to realize that we had only 45 minutes left in which to clean the house up, bathe and dress (all 4 of us!) and get my son back to the theater. There would be no naps after all.
In the excitement I misplaced my keys, borrowed my husband's extra car key, left his key ring in the house, locked the front door as I was leaving and then realized with shock that I didn't have keys to get back in the house.
"I hope your dad took his keys on his bike ride! He'll need to shower up before he comes to meet us!"
Two minutes later as we were driving my son gasped. "Mommy. My tap shoes."
"What about them honey?"
"I left them at home. They're on the table."
"We need to go back and get them."
"Oh no! Honey, I don't have keys for the house and we are running late. Let me call your father and ask him to get your shoes when he gets home."
We called my husband but the call went to voice mail. "Oh dear," I said. "Well, let's just keep going. Somehow it is going to be okay."
This was the second or third time during the day that I began to pray, hard, that my son would not end up cruelly disappointed - especially not from MY mistake. My brain raced to think of a solution to the dilemma. "Maybe I can call your uncles," I said. "They can sit with you while I run back home, and if I need to I will take a rock and break the front window to get in and get your tap shoes!"
"Mommy!" my son chided. "You say never to throw rocks!"
"You're right," I sighed. "That was a bad idea. But I promise I will think of something. I won't let you down, buddy."
We parked and walked four blocks to the theater - just me, my three small children, a diaper bag, a camera bag, a costume bag and a purse. No tap shoes.
Arriving at the theater we waited in line to buy tickets, including one for my one year old daughter - which I thought was a little outrageous... but I just wanted to get my son into his seat and ready for his first dance - which was thankfully, to be performed barefooted.
"That will be $40, ma'am," smiled the woman behind the counter.
"Sure," I handed her my check card.
"I'm sorry, it's cash or check only."
"Oh! Really?" I scavenged my purse for my checkbook. Wouldn't you know it... Nothing. No checkbook.
"Where is the nearest ATM?" I asked her tensely. Time was running thin. I had three children under the age of 6 holding onto me from all sides, including one of them (the three year old) who kept trying to put his head under my dress ~ God only knows why. (He thought it was hilarious.)
"I'm not sure, ma'am. You could try down the street that way!" she pointed.
I took a deep breath.
We left the line, and called my brothers. "I have a series of problems to solve," I began - and then recounted our recent tale of woe.
Thankfully I have the best brothers in the universe, and they arrived with my mother moments later with cash in hand to front me for the four tickets. First problem solved. I checked voicemail.
"Honey," I heard. "I got your message. This is, um, a real problem. I can't break down the back door to the house, it's got a deadbolt. There is no way I can get in right now. I may have to call a locksmith. I don't know how I'm going to get those shoes to you for his performance."
My heart sank to my knees. "Everything is going to be OK," I repeated to myself. "Everything is going to be OK." Kneeling down next to my children I explained,
"Mommy needs to go home and get Daddy for your show, and also somehow to get your shoes honey. I am going to get you settled here with your uncles and your grandmother, and I am going to go but I PROMISE I will get those shoes and I PROMISE I will be here to see you perform."
"Okay mommy," his lower lip quivered. Taking his hand I brought him down to the staging area and begged the other two mommies to look after him while I went to rescue my husband and the tap shoes.
"Good luck!" they called after me.
"I wanna mamma," announced my little girl, holding tightly onto my leg and refusing to go with her grandmother.
"I guess she's coming with me." My brothers agreed to save us seats and watch my middle son, so off she and I went. We'd made it about half a block toward the car when my cell phone rang.
"HONEY!" My husband sounded very happy now. "I found your keys in the other car! I'm in the house! I have the tap shoes! I'm getting ready to come right now!"
"Hurray!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's a miracle!" I laughed out loud. "We'll see you soon!"
Returning to the theater with daughter in tow, I knelt down next to my eldest who looked very anxious. "Everything is OK. Your father has your shoes. He's on his way. You look amazing. It's going to be a great show!"
His face lit up like a firework.
Giving him a quick squeeze I carried his little sister to the row (9 seats!) my brothers had saved for our immediate family. For the first time all day, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
There were so many moments from 8am to 1pm when I wondered how things could be going SO WRONG on a day that I'd worked hard to make great and special for my child. Yet in the end, it all really did work out.
My prayers - seemingly mundane - "Please God, help my husband to be here on time with the tap shoes!" really came from a deeper and more selfless place...
...Please don't let our son's joy be crushed or disappointed today, especially when his uncles have flown 3000 miles to watch him perform!
I feel so thankful and blessed that these prayers were answered, and that my son had a terrific first dance recital. He was uber-cute on stage but more importantly, he left the experience feeling confident and proud of his dancing.
"Mommy," he asked me on the drive back to our little family post-party, "Can I still do dancing now?"
"Now that the big show's over, you mean?"
"Yes. Can I still do dance classes?"
"Do you *want* to keep dancing?"
"Then of course we'll find a way for you to continue honey."
"Thank you. I love you."
So there you have it... the epic saga of our son's first dance recital and best of all, a mother whose heart turned to mush in the car on the way home from her latest adventure in parenting.
It may be temporary but I'll claim it gratefully anyway... Our happy ending!
*Names changed to protect the privacy of the people mentioned.