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Saturday, 10 September 2011

like mother like daughter

This week, after much anticipation, Isla had her first ballet lesson. Having seen her twin cousins go last term, she spent the whole of the summer saying 'I go when I am bigger' and now the time had come.

I was working, so Nanny (as in Granny, not the Jo Frost variety) took her along and I arrived half way through the lesson. I felt a huge tug on the heart strings as I saw Isla shyly hovering at the back of half a dozen girls all lined up copying Miss Emma pointing her toes. The other children, all roughly the same age and also new to the class, were happily joining in, holding hands and following the instructions. Isla on the other hand was hiding behind her fringe, sucking her thumb and cuddling monkey. She tried to be brave and hold her position when she saw me but within seconds had cracked and ran across the hall to bury her face in my leg.

When I asked her what the matter was she whispered, 'I don't love it'.
'Are you a bit scared?' I asked. She nodded. 'Do you want me to come with you?' She smiled, and nodded and took my hand and we rejoined the group.

I crouched down to look less conspicuous among a sea of toddlers but this made Isla crouch too, so I had to stand up again. From the corner of my eye I could see the other mothers smugly sitting at the edge, giving me the accusatory 'mollycoddler' look. But if I wanted Isla to join in, I knew that I would have to as well. And before I knew what was going on, I was sitting there doing my 'good toes, naughty toes, good toes, naughty toes'. (Of course, naughty toes is not just a case of flexing the feet, its a full on wagging of the finger as you very sternly tell your toes off.) I decided it was time to draw the line when they started running round in circles pretending to be ponies. To my relief, not only did Isla join in but she was first up and off clip-clopping behind Miss Emma.

By the end of the lesson she came running over with a huge smile and when I asked if she wanted to come back next week she excitedly said 'yeah, yeah, yeah!'

But seeing her with the other girls who had no qualms about running around and doing their curtsies while she stood awkwardly by, was like watching a mini-me and I would do anything to protect her from those gut-wrenching feelings of fear and self-consciousness. It is nature? Is it nurture? I suspect a bit of both, but if there was one gift I could give my daughter it would be self-confidence.

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