Catching up #1
Our wifi broke before Christmas. I continued writing but stopped posting. I have some catching up to do. Here goes:
I suggested in a recent blog that I often dilute the information that our son is at a ballet school with the excuse, "But I didn't have a choice." This needs some thinking about. I wonder if it is really true. I have a mild suspicion that I might no be taking full responsibility for the situation in which I find myself.
If those 'scouts' had not come to his primary school all those years ago and offered him four years' worth of free classes, life would now be different. There is every chance that he would not have found ballet had ballet not come and found him - something that I sometimes half-jokingly refer to as his initial 'abduction into the cult of ballet'. It would have felt wrong if back then, if I had said no to the free classes. He needed a chauffeur or a chaperone, and I thought nothing of fulfilling this parental role. The reward for taking him to class twice a week was that our child gained an insight into a completely different world - a world that his mother and I would have been unable to give him access. We didn't know at the time just how embedded ballet would become in our lives, and had we known, it wouldn't have changed a thing. We just wanted our child to have a broad range of experience and explore something outside the normal parameters of family life. I would have had the same attitude to something musical, or something to do with acting and drama. Chess, collecting creepy-crawlies, baking, football, swimming or athletics would all have precipitated the same reaction from me - I would have been encouraged him. I probably would not have been so encouraging if he had fallen into rugby or some activity with military cadets; I would not have bought him his first pair of rugby boots or allowed him to put on a military uniform. When he started ballet, we were all oblivious to the impact it would have on him and where it was all leading.
I also drove him to all his auditions. This was the point where I could have put my foot down and pointed out the impracticalities of becoming a dancer. However, I played with fire - thinking that we would wait and see if he got in, and then make up our minds. And, as parents have told their children since the beginning of time, if you play with fire, you get burned.
Once he'd got into a ballet school, it was too late. The joy surrounding us was overwhelming - he cried, his mum cried, even one of the receptionists at his primary school cried. I didn't cry. I can remember the day clearly. It marked the beginning of a completely new set of worries.
I could have been the father who said no - the archetypal father resistant to ballet. But my reasons are perhaps different from the stereotype. I worry about the heartbreak, should the dream end; and I am aware of how few who begin a vocational training at such a young age actually end up dancing as a career. It would have been simpler to end it before it had began - extinguish the dream before it had really caught alight. But then, I would have had to suffer a completely different set of consequences. I would have been known as the person who stopped him from fulfilling his potential. The story would be indelibly written in our family history, and long after my death it would still be spoken about in hushed tones - 'we nearly had a famous dancer in our family, but he was stopped from attending ballet school by his over-protective dad.' Like a cake that was never baked, like flowers that were never sent, or that novel that was never written; the void keeps the fantasy alive. It's just like my career in music: I'd be a rock star now, but I never actually formed a band ... or learned to play the guitar.
So, with all things considered, my opinion remains the same: the decision was out of my hands; I genuinely don't believe that I had a choice.