Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hannah Ballerina and Toby Tough Guy

Hannah has a best friend now. There's a family at our church whose 5 young children are almost the same ages as mine. For the past three years our kids have made up the majority of the nursery and primary Sunday School classes at our small church. Our kids have always been friends, but recently their second-born, Abby, and my second-born, Hannah, have decided they are best-friends.

After church last Sunday while Naomi sat discussing the details of ocean life with her shark-obsessed friend (who is probably her best friend, but being a boy, will probably never be labeled a best friend), and Emma and Toby ran a muck with the other preschoolers, Hannah and Abby sat quietly together on a couch in the corner. "We were having best friend time," Hannah explained to me. "We just talked for hours and hours." From what I heard Hannah was doing most of the talking, but Abby didn't seem to mind. Abby's mom and I have often marveled at how similar those two are with their love all of all things pink, sweet, and otherwise girlie, so I'm sure they found plenty to talk about.

Recently Hannah taught Abby how to catch a butterfly. "All you have to do is call its name," she explained. "If you just say, 'Here Buddy, Buddy..." then they come to you, and you can catch them." Abby was delighted, thanked Hannah, and ran to tell her mom that Hannah had told her how to catch a butterfly. I ran to hide.

This fall when we enrolled Hannah in soccer, Abby was enrolled in ballet class. Hannah loved the idea of playing soccer, but once the practices and games began she surprised me with how timid she was. It didn't help that my girls got placed on the best team in the league with a bunch of tough and experienced players. Hannah would rather stand in one spot and daydream than push and shove her way into a mass of kicking, flailing legs just to kick a silly ball. I really enjoyed playing soccer as a kid, and Matt played all through college, so we've tried to encourage our girls to give it a chance. But a few weeks back, when Abby had "bring a friend" day at ballet class and Hannah glowed for three days afterwards, we began to think we may be pushing Hannah down the wrong path.

Last Sunday Abby's mom, who had participated in ballet into young adulthood, was concerned that Abby wasn't enjoying ballet as much as she might if she has a friend with her. I laughed thinking just how much fun Hannah and Abby would have at ballet together, but never really entertained the idea because the cost of tuition was far above our means. On Monday morning Abby's mom called me and said that she and her husband would like to help us with the ballet tuition if Hannah would like to join Abby's ballet class. I talked it over with Matt and was surprised at how readily he agreed. Hannah didn't take much convincing either.

"Oh! Do you mean it, Mama?" she asked with gaping mouth and saucer eyes. "I can actually go to ballet every week with Abby?! I never thought you'd actually let me do that! Oh! I love ballet!"

"Do you love it more than soccer?" I asked, tongue in cheek.

"Soccer is boring!" she retorted. "Soccer is for boys!"

All the rest of Monday and Tuesday Hannah told everyone she met that she was going to be in ballet: the doctor at Toby and Elijah's appointment, the registration lady at the hospital, and each of her sisters at least twenty times until I had to tell her to tone it down a little. Yesterday as I got Hannah dressed in her ballet uniform (a spare on loan from Abby's mom), her excitement kept bubbling up in giddy giggles.

"You look really beautiful, sweetie," I smiled as I fixed the bun in her hair.

"Cute," she corrected me, "I don't look beautiful, I look cute 'cause I'm still little."

We arrived early to class to fill out papers and get her fitted for slippers. Then Hannah and Abby sat together on the dancers' bench and walked into class holding hands. "We held hands going in," Hannah later told me, "and we were beside each other the whole class. We were lucky too, because the teacher even picked us to be partners."

I wish I could have seen the class, but the parents aren't allowed to watch. I sat in the waiting room with my other four kids (Matt was working late again), talked with Abby's mom, and listened to the Disney music drifting in from the studio on the other side of the wall. When class was over Hannah was all smiles. "It was lots of fun, Mama!" she chattered on her way to the van. "We even did one dance with magic wands and tiaras. Mine was purple and pink. And we did one dance where we got to hold our partner's hand and twirl around. And we did lots of plie, straighten up, plie, straighten up."

"So do you think you'd like to go back again?" I teased.

"Oh! Only ten-thousand times more!" she gasped, fainting into her car seat.

Her continuous ballet babble leaked into every gap in the bedtime routine last night. It was still oozing from my ears as I filled Toby's cup of milk. The contrast with Toby's bed-time boasting made me laugh. Toby zipped-up his "Bob-the-builder" dress-up vest and announced, "I put on my cement clothes! I'm a man! It's cold outside and I don't care about cold. I just wear my cement coat outside!"

He wasn't feeling quite so brave at 5:00am though, when I heard the most ear-splitting scream followed by running and crashing noises, and more screaming. I lept out of bed more from the terror of Elijah waking than fear for Toby's well-being. Toby clung to me and shook and screamed for a long half-minute before settling down.

"It's OK, it's OK, Toby," I soothed him, "Did something scare you?"

"Yeah," he whimpered, "That shadow!" He pointed to the shadows of the tree branches waving across his window, and we had a little laugh and tucked him back in.  This morning he is brave and strong again, and we are settled down for a more normal day of the homeschool routine. Elijah is threatening to disrupt the peace with his new stair-climbing abilities, and Hannah is back to gurgling on about ballet class.

"I wish ballet was more than just one time a week, " she began this morning. Still blinking her eyes in the kitchen light, she looked at the calendar and sighed, "In six more days I'll go to ballet again."

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