This week my daughter became a gymnast and a tap dancer! For most 4 year old little girls, this would be no big deal; don't most little girls dance and do gymnastics? However, loyal readers of my blog know that my daughter is not "most little girls". After all, she just started walking almost exactly a year ago, at the age of 3 1/2.
I had always dreamed of A dancing, but frankly wasn't sure she ever would. When I was pregnant with A, and found out she was a girl, I imagined us doing Mommy-and-Me ballet like my other friends with daughters did. I fantasized about signing her up for gymanstics....of buying her a little tutu....of going to dance recitals. Of course, when she was hospitalized in the NICU for 12 weeks after she was born, I had a feeling that none of those dreams would become reality. And as she grew older, and her gross motor skills became more and more delayed (she didn't hold her head up until almost 6 months old, she sat up unassisted at 15 months; she finally crawled at about 18 months) it was more and more obvious to me that she may never do the things I so desperately yearned for.
Back in June, I found a dance studio that had a class that seems right for my new walker. I signed A up for a Creative Movement class, which she adored. In July, I put her in the Intro to Ballet class. This was not the Mommy-and-Me class I had wanted, but in a lot of ways it was better: an independent class for 3-4 year olds. I got to go to Capezio and buy her ballet slippers, and outfit her in a leotard and tights. Since July she has gone weekly to ballet (the Creative Movement class ended when school started in September) and has improved so much. She still can't do a lot of what the other kids do, as her balance is impaired and she still lacks the coordination to jump and skip. But she tries her hardest, and loves it. I don't even care what she can and can't do; the fact that she's in the class at all is enough for me.
Flash forward to this month. I had been looking, to no avail, for a gymnastics class for A. It's been hard, much harder than I thought. Every place I called seemed inappropriate. The classes for her age group were developmentally way too advanced, and the classes that were developmentally appropriate were for little kids. However, I hit the jackpot and found a local place that is perfect for her. The instructors actually have experience with kids with needs and varying abilities. I talked to them at length about A, felt comfortable, and signed her up.
This past Tuesday was her first day. She was placed in a class with 5 other kids, all about the same age. They rotated around different parts of the gym: balance beams, a trampoline, slides, rings, etc. The instructor, who had actually read the form I filled out about A and knew her medical issues, stayed with her for all the things she needed extra assistance on (like the balance beams). I was thoroughly impressed with their level of attentiveness. A had a great time and had a smile on her face throughout. And I am satisfied that this will make a great replacement for her medically-based physical therapy, which ended last month after 4 1/2 years. I just know she will benefit from all the activities she will do in gymnastics.
In addition to trying gymnastics for the first time, this week she also got to try out tap dancing! The dance studio started offering it for her age group this week, directly after ballet on Thursday. Most of the little girls in ballet, including A, stayed after the ballet class to test out the new tap class. Again, I think this class will be very good for her. Much of tap dancing involves balancing on one foot, lifting the other, and coordinating when to strike the heel or the toe. Things that are hard for any 4 year old and that are doubly hard for my daughter. But she tried her best, and actually did a heel-toe walk, with the teacher's assistance, across the dance floor!
Today I went back to Capezio buy her a pair of black patent-leather tap shoes. They are now nestled in her ballet bag, next to her pink ballet slippers. Her sweatpants for gymnastics hang in her closet. She has all the gear. My daughter is now a ballerina, tap dancer, and gymnast....just as I dreamed she'd be at age 4 1/2. In my eyes, she's the most graceful one out there.