You Annoy Me

“You annoy me, Dad.”

You are the “You” in this scenario, and for the past 7 hours you have been standing against the back wall of the dance studio where your daughter studies every imaginable form of dance–ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, contemporary. Today is Barefoot Theatre day, the day the studio’s owner and chief instructor showcases and critiques every dance the studio is working on as family, friends, and relatives play audience.

You are basically a baseball dad standing amidst a sea of dance moms. They are much kinder than the dance moms you have seen on TV. The instructor is much more buttoned up than any you’ve seen on TV, too. She is serious. This is much more about art and professionalism to her than glamour and TV ratings. You are glad your daughter is here. This studio, this instructor, these women and their daughters, they have made your job of parenting much easier. They have helped you teach your daughter discipline, passion, self-esteem, focus, how to succeed, how to fail, how to fall down, and, most important, how to bounce back up when you’d rather just stay down. Important values. She has learned how to dream here, and she has learned that even if dreams don’t come true, having a dream to chase will always make you a better person.

This place is your respite. Here, you cannot coach or instruct. You cannot even cheer until the dance is over. Your daughter would have you sit quietly and not make a peep for 7 hours. But you are you.

Upon arrival at the studio you were asked not to take photos or video … by your daughter.

“Why not?” You asked. “Photos are permissible today! It’s not a competition.”

“I don’t care. No photos, please. You’ll put them all over Facebook.”

“Yeah, so? I’m not going to put them in a photo album. No one can ‘like’ them there.”

“Ugh … please.”

You chuckled your most sinister chuckle and said, “I’ll do my best,” but you knew you wouldn’t … and you don’t. During the first few dances, you keep your iPhone low in your lap and click away, hoping your daughter won’t notice, hoping the angle of the camera will capture the shots you want. By the end of the last performance you are half standing, half sitting on the seat back of your chair against the back wall, zooming in on your daughter and videotaping the entire dance.

Later, in the hallway outside the studio, you walk beside your daughter and tell her you snapped hundreds of photos and many minutes of video you can’t wait to show her, and that’s when she says,

“You annoy me, Dad.”

But she is smiling and shaking her head when she says it. She knows your being here, her being here, the whole shebang is no accident. She knows a lot more of your story than any of the dance moms with whom you are trying to “blend.” She knows that your being clean and sober only 4 years more than she’s been alive is why you want to capture every moment that wasn’t ever supposed to be possible let alone actually happen. She knows that if that day 4 years before her birth—that day you found yourself at the jumping off point—had not come and you had not chosen hope over despair, you wouldn’t be here, she wouldn’t be here, and this dance recital never would have happened for either of you.

“You annoy me, Dad,” she says, smiling and shaking her head. “But I love.”

And so, you get to go home happy you are the “You” in this scenario.

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