Friday, April 29, 2011

All About Her

You know those people who hate when anyone makes a fuss over their birthday? They try to let it pass unnoticed, reject any suggestion that something should be done to commemorate their special day, act sheepish if they're found out.

I do not understand those people at all. I believe in the Birthday Month approach, wherein anything you do in the thirty days bracketing the anniversary of your birth can and should be rationalized as a celebration. So you won't be surprised when I publicly declare that tomorrow is my birthday.

You may be surprised when I say that I'm voluntarily not celebrating it. 

My oldest daughter, along with 17 other kids from our church, is being confirmed tomorrow. The program that our church pioneered for confirmation, the sacrament by which a child becomes an adult in the eyes of the church, is called Confirm Not Conform (CnC) and is now nationally syndicated. Starting last September, the kids began meeting 2-3 times/month to talk with clergy and lay leaders about various aspects of Christianity, their own spirituality, and their personal values. Field trips to various area houses of worship were mandatory, as were stints at a soup kitchen and food bank.

Each child was assigned a mentor who took a special interest in their progress, encouraging them and helping them along with what was a significant time commitment. Throughout the experience, the kids are supported in the journey and reminded that it is 100% their choice whether or not they actually choose to get confirmed at the end of it. It is designed to leave them with a lifelong framework for evaluating spiritual and moral choices.

Sounds great, right? But it's been much harder than I anticipated, when I decreed last summer that my daughter would have to do CnC this year. Much as she likes the CnC program and adores her mentor, the schedule has required my daughter to miss her ballet class every other week, for 9 months. You and I, grownups that we are, understand that  in the grand scheme of things fifteen missed ballet classes are not earth-shattering. But you and I are not 13 year old girls who really love ballet. 

Every other Wednesday, same fight. "I'm going, because I HAVE to go. Because you are MAKING me do it." Dueling eye rolls.

"I am MAKING you do it so that you will have something priceless to carry with you, your whole life - an understanding of the values that are important to you." Teeth grinding glare, hands on hips.

"BALLET is what's important to me!" Slam, slam, stomp, stomp. 

Every Wednesday I almost give up. She's got justification; I'm pretty convinced her repeated absences cost her a role or two during  last December's production of The Nutcracker. But having a solid spiritual grounding has been an invaluable help during troubled times in my own life. So I stubbornly hold on to the threat of mothers everywhere: "You'll thank me for this one day!"

But what do I know? You really have to wait until they're 35 or so to see the results of your parenting experiment. Even then - how much of it is because of the way you parented? And how much is due to the self-determining child who pushed back when Mom and Dad went too far? I'm thinking of that eighth year of piano study over which I fought with my parents. They eventually agreed to let me quit, and I went on to other activities like student council and writing for the school paper that felt much more relevant.

At any rate, that's why I am gladly making tomorrow - and today's video -  be all about her The video shows the Kirov Ballet dancing the Mazurka from Coppelia, the dance that my daughter and her younger sister will be performing with the Oakland Ballet School in June (and for which she has had to miss three rehearsals this week while practicing for confirmation.)

Giving my birthday over to celebrate her seems like the least I can do in exchange for her perseverance in seeing this through.

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