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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Teaching your child to say good bye

"Bye-Bye" is one of the first words you will hear out of your baby's mouth.  For a mom who spent 9 months carrying the child and 20 hours of labor, these words usually come sometime shortly after you hear "Da-Da" and often long before your ears are delighted with the word, "Ma-Ma".  I did not ever realize the importance of those two little syllables the moment those words first hit my ear drum, but learning to say "bye-bye" and grasping the concept of "goodbye" will soon make up the rest of this child's life.

It dawned on me today that life is really about learning to say goodbye well.  This coming from someone who thought she had it down.  By the time I was in 6th grade, I had been in six different schools and three different cities.  I had my share of apartments and moving around in my early adult years as well as plenty of "adios" said to employers as I happily moved on.  To me, it was never really about saying goodbye, but rather about a new "hello".

Yesterday, this concept hit me harder than I ever expected any goodbye ever would.  For the past 8 1/2 years of my 10-year-old daughter's life and the entire 5 years of my youngest girl's breaths, they have enjoyed the dance instruction of an incredible teacher at a local YMCA.  Teachers like this one are few and far between.  While other dance studios were enforcing thick theatrical makeup and dresses on tiny girls that belong on, well...  are inappropriate in my line of thinking, this dance teacher carefully and patiently was taking the time to deliver true dance instruction to itty bitties in a manner that was always fun, always uplifting and encouraging.  Discovering what pretty dress the girls would wear each year at the recital was a large part of the excitement.  They were always beautiful, yet so very tasteful.  The music this teacher chose was always popular but never offensive.  She is seriously a crown jewel of teachers.  My oldest daughter even tried another dance academy for a year that a friend had recommended, while dual enrolled with this teacher at the "Y", because she refused to choose between this teacher and the other studio.  It didn't take long before we left the other studio fast behind.

I remember the first dance lessons with my oldest daughter, who had barely turned 2 (the picture above - the one in the center of the pink dance dress and pose - that's when my oldest was 3, so inspired by this teacher's dance class that she wore these dresses everywhere we went - even to the beach).  It was really more about taking adorable pictures in her dance leotard than it was about anything else in those days.  But, oh how far she has come in the past 8 1/2 years.  My littlest girl cut her teeth on this teacher's dance style as she happily danced in the corner during her big sister's lesson and then alongside the instructor for many a lessons before I convinced her that she was not, in fact, the teacher and she needed to stay behind the yellow line.  But, that is how this teacher made my girls feel - as though they were her family.

Yesterday, I opened up an email from the teacher.  It was simply subject lined:  "dance".  Deep inside I was secretly hoping she was going to announce that she would be moving her dance classes to her newly opened daycare down the road - A switch me and many parents would be glad to make from the "Y" if it means keeping this teacher for our girls.  But, it was not about a change of venue.  She announced that she would no longer be teaching dance at the "Y", but there was no announcement of a new venue.  That was the end of an era for me.  This teacher will no longer be teaching dance to a gym full of excited, anxious girls at the YMCA.  With pressing family and business matters, she resigned.

I cannot tell you how hard this hit me.  A flood of tears has not stopped flowing my my eyes.  I, along with my 2 daughters, say goodbye to enjoyable childhood memories.  Never again will they discover the pretty dress this teacher carefully chose for them.  Never again will they dance on the stage at the college nearby.  Never will my daughter's dreams of dancing a duet together on that stage, or my oldest's desire to dance a solo be fulfilled in the same way.

It hit me today, as I walked around the lake to pray and think, that life is really about a series of good byes.  The level of happiness we experience or the legacy we leave behind is really about how well we learn to say good bye, and how well we teach our children this important skill.

Above is a clip from their last recital with this teacher.  My oldest learned this ballet turn this year under the teacher's instruction, and performed it with grace and a 2nd degree burn on the bottom of her foot, while the smile still appeared thanks to the teacher's encouragement and love.  Farewell!  Your patience, joy, never-ending smile and encouragement goes deep into my heart.  You will always be treasured in our hearts as one of the best teachers we've ever known.  I now will secretly hope she will someday resume the kind of dance classes and recitals my girls have come to love while I learn how to embrace a new hello.  I guess I still have a lot to learn about saying goodbye.

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