Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Breaking Promises to Myself

In just one week, I will be forced to break a promise I made to myself several years ago. It’s a vow I had every intention of keeping until my last breath on this earth. And, it’s making me realize just how far I will go to make my children happy.

After college I had a disastrous episode with community theater that I have tried very hard to forget. I was single and working in my first grown-up job in a small Texas town that just happened to be home to more old people than any other county in the entire state (and while I tend to be dramatic at times, that was a statistical fact based off US Census data). Let me suffice it to say, there were not a lot of people my age and not a very active nightlife. Perfect for a person just out of college and ready to take on the world.

Some of the people I worked with, including a few physicians, were acting in an upcoming community theater production and they invited me to join the group. I auditioned won a part and I was off and running. I was playing Florence Nightingale – a fairly meaty role. The rehearsals were boisterous and I met a lot of new people. It was really fun!

Until, on opening night, I tripped over some cords on stage and fell flat on my face. In front of a packed house of people I knew both professionally and personally (like my boss, the hospital president, several physicians and my family who drove in from out of town for the occasion). And, to make matters worse, I injured my knee in the fall, couldn’t stand up and had to crawl off stage. Yes, I said CRAWL. All of this while a particularly foul tempered and extremely prissy otolaryngologist raged at me just off curtain: “DAMN IT -- GET UP! GET UP!”

It was, well, humiliating.  I still get physically ill thinking of it – I can feel the hot lights, I can see the horror on my cast members faces and I can see the utter disgust on the face of that physician as he waved his arms and screamed at me. There are no words that can possibly convey my embarrassment.

So, I promised myself, if I could just get through that production (we had three shows that weekend) I would never, ever put myself in a position like that again. It was a promise of self-preservation.

Fourteen years later, I am forced with a difficult decision. I am with my sweet four-year-old daughter at dance lessons. Her teacher is talking about the upcoming recital with great animation and the girls are listening intently. And then she springs it on us: she has planned a mommy-daughter dance for the recital’s big opening number. The girls squeal with utter delight. I want to crawl under my chair.

Even without the solemn “never again on stage” vow, this brings up a lot of “stuff” for me. For one thing, I am not a person that blends in. At 6’ tall in my bare feet, it has always been impossible to blend. After my initial shock I look around at the other moms to confirm what I already know. Nearly all of them are 5’6 or under on their very tallest day. The one other mommy who could pass for tall-ish immediately opts out of the dance leaving me alone to tower above the crowd . . . on stage.

Plus, I have to dance. As you might have guessed by the wipe out of epic proportions I shared above, I am not a particularly graceful person. I seriously consider opting out. I mean, after all, she’s FOUR! She probably won’t even remember, right? And, not everyone is participating so it’s not like she would be the ONLY one sitting out the big opening number. All the way home I think about how to tell her I am not dancing . . . and I relive the torture that brought me to this point. But, as soon as we get home, she runs to her daddy, bursting with excitement and shouts, “Mommy is going to dance with me daddy – in front of everyone. I can’t wait!”

So, in one week I will be dancing with my daughter in the opening number at her dance recital. I’ve tried to control what I can about the situation: at least we are prepared. We’ve rehearsed at the dance studio and in the kitchen and in the bathroom and everywhere she can convince me to practice. She loves every second of the experience and particularly loved helping me shop for a shirt to match her costume. I am trying to just be in the moment with her. I am trying to soak up every moment of her joy and confidence and pride at this opportunity.

At the end of the dance, the mommies pick up their daughters and twirl them offstage in our arms. When we get off stage I always sneak in a kiss before I set her down. And she always says, “That’s the best part mama!” And even though I am breaking this promise, I cannot help but agree.

Deena McAllister is the Director of Marketing for Texas Health Resources and mom of two.

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