“When am I going to start dance lessons?” my 6-year-old daughter asks me at the park, soon after discovering that her new friend just came from ballet class.
“We’ll see,” I tell her.
“That’s what you said the last time.”
“I know,” I reply.
While she runs back to the monkey bars, I’m left with a horrible feeling in my stomach.
“We’ll see.” I heard that so many times growing up and it always meant the same thing. “We can’t afford it.” Now I’m saying it all the time, sounding just like my mom who didn’t want to make me a promise that she couldn’t keep. But it sucks because as parents we want to give our kids all the things we didn’t have, and when we can’t, we feel like failures.
The other day I was talking to a single, working mom who knows exactly what I’m feeling. She was saying that her daughter’s second grade class would go around on Monday and make all the kids share what they did over the weekend. “It was terrible because kids would feel left out if they weren’t climbing Mount Everest or going to Disney,” she says, adding that she’d tell her daughter to just make something up. “But when we really did go somewhere best believe eeeeeeeeeverybody knew!” she laughs.
Now my daughter is over on the grass practicing flips that she learned from watching videos on Youtube. Shoutout to Youtube tutorials that can teach you how to fly a plane if you want. But still.
That evening, my daughter and I are walking to Parent’s Night at her school and already she’s asking me what she’s gonna get if her report from her teacher is good. “We’ll see,” I tell her, wishing that this knot in my stomach was the kind that would suppress my appetite because if you’re going to feel bad, you should at least lose weight. I just keep on eating. But I digress.
My daughter’s teacher, Mrs. V., is giving me the report and it’s good. I’m not completely surprised because they’re in kindergarten and just learning to read and write so it’s hard to screw up. But then she tells me that my daughter is a good writer. A good writer? And she gives me a few month’s worth of extra lessons that I should have her do everyday at home to help her build on it. I must be looking at her like she’s a martian because she says:
“You’re a writer, right?”
“Yes,” I tell her.
“It makes sense.”
We’re walking home and I’m thinking about what the teacher said and what it means. Somehow, without even trying, my daughter is picking up on my writing skills. And it does make sense because we talk about writing a lot. I tell her what I’m working on and sometimes she even makes suggestions. I never thought anything of it, but what if I really started teaching her how to write starting now?
Suddenly, it occurs to me that while I’m feeling bad that I can’t get her dance lessons I’m missing out on what I can give her, and that’s a skill that she can take with her wherever she goes. Like a cook who passes on that magic touch in the kitchen, that child will never go hungry, nor will a tailor who teaches his kid how to sew. At the end of the day, my daughter doesn’t have to become a writer, but the point is she’ll have options. That’s how you set your kids up in life. You pass on to them what you know. And that will always come from the heart.
My daughter interrupts my thoughts to say, “Mommy, now that I got a good report what are you going to give me?”
I turn to her and say, “We’ll see.” But this time I’m smiling.
So what about you? What lesson are you passing on to your kids?
This article first appeared on Madamenoire.com August 2, 2016.