J and I had a tough conversation with A on Friday. It was slow in coming. Tuesday evening, as I drove home from K's soccer practice, I was feeling completely overwhelmed. We were only two days into the week and I was exhausted (thanks in part to a weekend that provided very little time for rest). And as I thought ahead to the rest of our week, the rest of our month, the rest of this year, I could see no relief in sight. Soccer was only a few weeks longer, but K would continue to dance two nights weekly, B would continue with weekly choir and A would not only have three weeks of overlapping productions, but add two hours of weekly classes (bringing the total to nine weekly) while adding Nutcracker rehearsals. And that's just time for the girls - you'll notice I didn't mention a single activity for J or I. This was not good.
I spent some time during the week mentally and literally reviewing our calendar. What could be cut? K could drop her Friday afternoon dance class for a few months. J and I could wait six months to take the Anglicanism 101 class on Wednesday evenings. Or... I could bite the bullet and tell A I had made a mistake letting her audition for The Nutcracker. This was the single biggest commitment looming on the horizon for any member of our family. It started this weekend and would consume at least part of every weekend between now and Christmas. Nothing else I could remove from the calendar would create the breathing room of removing this one commitment.
So why did I let her audition in the first place? I can give you lots of reasons, but here's the long and short of it: because she loves it. In the weeks leading up to the audition, I tried to get A to decide not to audition this year. I talked with her about how her production of The Little Engine that Could would overlap with The Nutcracker. I reminded her that it was a huge time commitment for our entire family. But I should have known that she would never turn down an opportunity to dance (especially an opportunity to dance in a professional production). Never.
And that is why God gives children parents. Because at ten years old A doesn't understand that while the dancing gives her all that her soul needs to more than make up for the hours spent in rehearsals, it was going to leave this mother with an empty tank. I knew in my heart that I could not continue with the schedule we had and have any modicum of sanity.
When J and I told A about our decision, she took it well. God had arranged the circumstances to make this easier for all of us - A got additional audition experience by auditioning this year, she was cast in the same role she played last year, she had participated the last two years, she was emotionally equipped to deal with a bit of disappointment, and she still has one more year of eligibility for the youth cast next year.. In fact, as we told her about it, my eyes filled with tears while hers stayed dry.
It's not easy for me to set healthy boundaries, especially when doing so means keeping my children from taking advantage of a great opportunity. An opportunity that would nourish her passion, give her experience and delight her soul. But A is not the only member of our family. And sometimes the better portion is the one that leaves us all refreshed and delighted by the joys of autumn. Sometimes having a Saturday with nothing at all on the calendar is pure bliss for the whole family.
It may sound trite, but I am oddly proud of myself for taking this step. It let me see that it wouldn't crush my daughter to miss out on something. It reminded me that I am an important part of this family. It set a good example for my daughters of identifying and respecting their own boundaries.
Remind me of this when A is sad to be merely an audience member this December, OK?