Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kids' Activities - Let Them Try (3)

(Continued from February 19, 2011) ..... In early September, our 3-year-old daughter began dance class and, at the end of the first three-hour rehearsal, the teacher approached us and she told us that she had never seen a three-year-old who had been able to focus on the various dance steps for three entire hours.

After the third week of dance class, the lead teacher and her assistant approached us to tell us that our daughter appeared to be gifted in the area of dance as she had a natural ability to quickly pick up steps and master them before some of the older children were able to do so.

To say the least, our daughter was overjoyed that she was able to take dance classes, that she was being successful at dance, and that she would be able to wear many colorful costumes in the recital that was still almost 9 months away.

From the days of her first dance classes at three years old all the way through her first two years of college, our daughter continued to take dance classes. In addition, she had also become a dance teacher at the ripe old age of twelve!

Without question, at least in this dad’s mind, our daughter was made to dance!

So, what happened in the future from that first recital? Well, our daughter continued to take dance lessons, later augmented by singing and acting lessons, so that she would be able to further her dream of being on stage. She danced many solos (as well as with ensembles), she acted, she sang, and found multiple excuses to get on stage to perform!

She later entered many competitions, capturing first place in a 3-state competition and then finishing in the top ten in a national competition in New York City! Yes, our daughter had taken her love of dance from that first recital and was now a winner on the national stage!

During her second year of college, we encouraged her to audition for some big shows that would feature her dancing, singing, and acting. She was a tad reluctant at first, as she was not sure how she would match up against some of the top performers in the land.

Well, she finally made arrangements for an audition with a national show. She and I drove to the town the night before, got a good night’s sleep, and ventured to the audition where we waited …. and waited, .. and waited in a room with about 50 other hopefuls.

FINALLY – the director called her name along with the names of about 20 of the others. They headed off to a rehearsal room – I was not allowed to go down the hall! I had to wait alone!

Well, did she get the job? Please come back next week to find out!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Kids' Activities - Let Them Try (2)

(Continued from February 12, 2011) ..... So, on a warm Friday evening in early June, when my daughter was three years old, she and I ventured off to the dance recital hall to watch my students perform.

While I enjoyed watching my students perform and excel in yet another arena, I noticed that my daughter's eyes were wide open for the entire three-hour recital, as she seemed mesmerized by the colorful costumes, several different styles of dances, and the overall production.

On the way home that evening, I asked her if she would like to get involved with dates. I received one of the most enthusiastic affirmative answers that a three-year-old child could muster up. My daughter wanted to begin dance lessons immediately! She was instantly hooked and she wanted to be a star on the dance stage!

Keeping the Beethoven/Ruth analogy in mind, we contacted the dance instructor of the recital the next week and asked if our three-year-old daughter could take dance lessons. Unfortunately, she told us, three years old was simply too young to focus in dance class. The teacher told us to wait until our daughter was four years old before beginning dance lessons.

Upon breaking the news to a future hall-of-famer in the dance field, our daughter was devastated, as she wanted to begin dance lessons right away. We also knew that her ability to focus for long periods of time was already well-established. Paying attention in class would not be an issue for her.

We waited for about a month, and then we called the teacher again. This time, we talked to the teacher about our daughter's ability to focus for long periods of time and we asked the teacher if our three-year-old daughter could try dance lessons and, if the teacher believed that things did not work out, we would understand and we would withdraw our daughter from dance class and wait until she was four years old.

The dance teacher told us that she would think about it and that she would get back to us in August - still in plenty of time to begin dance classes in September.

To say the least our daughter was excited about the possibility that she might be able to start dance class. We continued to dance around the house multiple times each day, as she was still demonstrating her great desire to become a dancer right now!

Sure enough, in early August the dance teacher called us. She asked again about our three-year-old daughter's ability to focus. We assured her that our daughter would be able to focus in class, but, again, if things did not work out, we would withdraw her from dance class and resume when she was four years old. 

(Please come back next week to find out how the dance class went for my favorite 3-year-old daughter!).

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Kids' Activities - Let Them Try (1)

"Dad, can I play baseball? Can I join the scouts? Can I take swimming lessons? Can I join the YMCA? Can I take gymnastics? Can I take dance lessons? Can I? Can I?, Can I …………?"

Ah, yes, kids want to try EVERYTHING when they are young! Their likes and dislikes often change with the wind, the latest crazes, and their friends’ opinions. So, with only 1 or 2 parents, limited time, and limited funds, what is a parent to do when a child wants to try EVERYTHING?

Well, as you know, I have long been a proponent of allowing your kids to try the many activities in which they show interest throughout their childhood. Of course, time, finances, ability to get them to various locales, and other family issues need to be considered before finalizing plans.

Over the next five weeks, I will show you something that we did with our daughter to help her to fulfill her desire of trying different activities, while still limiting her choices until she had whittled them down to a manageable number. Also, by allowing her to try some activities (always within the established time and financial restraints of the family), she gained the needed confidence to be successful at her final chosen activity - a level of success that continues today!

So, yes, when kids get to try activities in which they have interest, you never quite know what is going to happen. After all, if Beethoven’s parents had not allowed him to try the piano, the world would have never heard any music from him. If Babe Ruth’s parents had not allowed him to try baseball, we would have never had the Great Bambino! However, by allowing their children to try piano and baseball, respectively, both kids grew up to provide tremendous output in their chosen professions.

Many years ago, when I was a teacher and my daughter was only three-years-old, several of my female students invited me to one of their dance recitals. While I was not necessarily looking forward to giving up a Friday evening for a dance recital, I did want to support my students. Plus, as an added bonus, I did take the opportunity to have my daughter go with me to watch the big girls dance.

I had consciously thought of having her try dance someday. She had a good sense of rhythm, she liked music, and I noticed that all of the girls who had taken dance lessons were also good students.

We had already spent the first three years of her life dancing around the house, sometimes trying to be serious but mostly trying to be silly. However she did seem to have a basic knack for dance and she certainly seemed to enjoy dancing with her dad!

So, how did the recital go and what effect did the performance have on my daughter's future life direction? Well, come back next Saturday to find out!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Birthday Tradition Continues (2)

(Continued from January 29, 2011) .... At any rate, my daughter recently celebrated her 23rd birthday on a Thursday. As I was going to be out of town on that morning, I decided that we would perform her “Happy Birthday” song two days later on Saturday. I did not tell anybody of this plan, but I figured that it would work.

In lieu of being there to perform and continue the tradition, I recorded a special version of “Happy Birthday” in mp3 format for my daughter and I e-mailed it to her the night before, knowing that she would listen to it shortly after she awoke on her big morning.

However, our youngest son (17-years-old) had apparently decided on his own that this tradition of performing “Happy Birthday” on the morning of the birthday MUST continue – even in my physical absence. On the morning of our daughter’s birthday, he took it upon himself to enter his sister’s room with a boom box, cranked up the volume to max, and then played a CD recording of “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang!

Interestingly, I am told that my daughter immediately woke up laughing and thanking him (not the reaction that most of us would have had with such an abrupt wake-up call!), as she was thankful that the tradition had been kept alive!

Yes, the little whippsnapper just could not stand the thought of a long-standing tradition being stalled by two days, so he did the best thing that he could think of on the spur of the moment – blasting “Celebration” seemed just about right to him!

My wife called me right away to tell me of the news – that our kids had kept one of my (and our) birthday traditions alive for another year!! She was laughing as she told me and I soon joined in the laughter with her, both pleased as punch (“Pleased as punch?” – Hmmm, maybe I am becoming lame!) that our kids were keeping this tradition alive on their own.

Yes, the thought that our kids think highly enough of one of our family traditions to keep it alive on their own is certainly pleasing to both parents.

The thought that this just about cements the thought that they will do the same with their own kids someday is a feeling that is too good to describe!

So, how about you? Do you have any family traditions that bring joy to you and your family – traditions that you keep doing year after year out of joy? If so, please pass them along. Thank you!

Paul W. Reeves