Thursday, August 30, 2007

a special guest post: an expose of the strange world of ballet stage mothers!

Today at Drunken Housewife Industries we are happy to present a searing expose of the dark, twisted world of Ballet Moms. The Drunken Housewife herself briefly experienced that world, and quailed. The delighful Missy, current reigning holder of the Mrs. Drunken Housewife title, is made of sterner stuff and has stuck it out for over a decade of ballet parenting while maintaining her personal sanity. Thrill to her tales of psycho stage moms:

Sometimes when I take one of my daughters to class and we walk past the preschool moms with their adorable little dancers, so cute and sweet, I think, "Oh, those mothers just don't know what's ahead for them. It's too bad they are going to turn into balletmoms." Then I see one letting her toddler son bang his toy car on the window of the class room, another letting two more kids spill water all over the floor without cleaning it up, another one complaining because this class is clearly too easy for her daughter, while a third baby is howling and his mother is gabbing away, and I think: Too late.

Caroline's Mom is "Flake Mom." You go by your kid's name for the first two or three years of balletmom, until you earn the right to your own name. Flake Mom has the same first name as three other moms so she still gets called by her daughter's name, though.

Flake Mom, at Nutcracker auditions, laughs: "We missed the WHOLE first week of class! I didn't know we had class last week!"

Flake Mom used to call another balletmom regularly on holidays and such to ask if we had class. Like swallows returning to Capistrano, if it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Flake Mom was on the phone. Info about class dates comes to Flake Mom the same way it does to the rest of us, in the registration forms, posted in the studio, on the website, and in emails.

"What time is this thing over?" Some one else says an hour, and I say, "3:45, that's what the form said, didn't it?"

Flake Mom, laughs: "I never read those things!"

"Stage Mom" is also back this year. Two years ago Stage Mom's younger daughter (9 years old or so) was a Young Party Girl along with my younger daughter (11). I feel badly about Stage Mom because she's exuberantly friendly and always cheerful! and I can't stand her.

This summer Stage Mom's younger kid had jazz class with mine. The summer classes are more mixed in level, which can be a nasty surprise to some balletmoms, who then assume their child has been promoted up to so-and-so's level, and then the fall class schedules and arrive and reality returns. (Incidentally, the mixing levels has never once, ever, been to our benefit, but I'm not bitter about it).

"Tracy is SO THRILLED to be dancing with the same girls her sister Lacy danced with!"

"Oh. How nice for Tracy."

Stage Mom repeats this several times for the first three or four weeks of class (poor older sister Lacy). Tracy is photogenic and very cute and very talented. In fact, we regularly were told all about Tracy's talent as a gymnast and her awards or whatever.

Gymnasts and ice skaters often take ballet to help "develop grace" as their mothers tell us. Gymnastmoms and skatermoms always make sure everyone knows their daughter is "JUST TAKING BALLET FOR GRACE." We used to silently hate one gymnastmom who would say things loudly like "I can't believe the kids in this class can't do full splits! Lindsey's been doing that since she was TWO!" Oh, we were so thankful when Lindsey no longer needed grace and quit ballet.

Stage Mom's older daughter, Lacy, on the other hand, loves horses and wanted to ride (away from her younger sister Tracy). Finally Lacy kicked over the traces, revolted, and told her mother she didn't want to do dance anymore, ever. Stage Mom had to be dragged from the younger girls' dressing room where she was taking photos of Tracy, to come and help with Lacy's group.

"But Tracy needs me!"

"You signed up for Lacy's group, and there's no other mother there. And Tracy's group has plenty of other parents to help."

So Stage Mom walked through the dressing room with all the older girls saying, "Now y'all, this is Lacy's LAST recital! Let's all try and talk her into staying in dance!"

Lacy, alone in the corner, barely even looked up from her Nintendo DS.

During Nutcracker, when Tracy and my daughter Katie were both playing Young Party Girls, requiring tedious Victorian style ringlets and costumes of multiple pieces that had to be tacked down before each show, and checked meticulously afterwards, I glanced over from my work to see Stage Mom sitting on the floor in the dressing room.

Curling her own hair. For almost an hour.

On her way out she said cheerfully, "You're SO welcome! I love to help!" when the office manager thanked her for volunteering.

There is also "Granny" who accused me of cheating on the carpool schedule to take advantage of her, and "Time-Challenged Mom," who has been late every single time for for four freakin' years it's her turn to drive carpool. Or "Diva Mom," whose daughter was so incredibly gifted and beautiful as a dancer that it barely compensated for two of the most excessively controlling and detail obsessive parents in the world. Diva Dad once stood over me as I put framed posters in easels on a table, directing how they should line up. This is not a task that requires managerial supervision.

The two Latin American Moms are always talkative. One sighs and asks questions constantly about how my daughter and comparing answers to her daughter. "Does Mea-ghan....Because Ga-bri-ella...." This includes dance, school, menstrual cycles, and anything Gabriella is currently fighting with her mother over.

The other Latin American Mom just glares and glowers at the director and talks about how when she was in ballet in her country they use leather pointe shoes and leather pointe shoes are SO much better and why, why, why does the director not allow them here?

Last year she almost created a mini-revolt with Granny about the leather pointe shoes. Granny is Irish and always up for a rebellion.

"Crazymom" was legendary, though. Crazymom had a certain kind of Spartan warrior mentality about her daughters and dance. Once one came out tearfully from class with an injury from and without raising her eyes from her book Crazymom ordered her back in the class before the director noticed she was making a fuss over something like that.

Crazymom reluctantly put her time in volunteering, but they let off after she went off in a screaming fit at a group of girls for taking up too much time changing in the restroom stalls when she needed to get in. My daughter Megan happened actually to be using the facilities at the time of the nuclear meltdown, huddling in terror behind the pitiful protection of the metal door while Crazymom was screaming "You have to get over this modesty thing!"

Thus causing a nuclear reaction with at least two mothers who weren't in any hurry to see their fifth-graders get over any modesty thing.

After that, Crazymom went back to painting her toenails and reading her novel in the corner.

I heard later that Crazymom got hormone therapy for menopausal mood swings and her daughters both quit ballet, but sometimes we all still reminisce about the legendary Restroom Rant.

My daughter told me last night that in Tuesday's class, the girl I call "Pretty Girl" came out and was taking off her shoes when Pretty Girl's mom came over and said,"You weren't very good tonight. You need to be more graceful."

Then she patted her daughter's arm. "Otherwise, you won't make Nutcracker, and you want to make that, right?"

If I ever did that to either of my daughter, they would either say, "Shut the crap up, Mom!" or,in a very patronizing tone, "Mom, you need to go back and sit down, because you clearly don't know what you are talking about."

I stopped going so much to watch this fall, especially after my honor was impugned with the Carpool Cheating accusation. The girls are both getting older and it makes them nervous when I watch. Eventually as the dancers get older most parents just drop the girls off. They say they're "doin' the drop and drive this year."

Besides, I'm pretty sure that at least one of the other moms out there is making up names for me.


Silliyak said...

If there IS a hell, and if it has LEVELS, this surely is one of them.

Anonymous said...

Good job, Missy!

Marketeer/nmitford/Carol Ann

hughman said...

there's a group like this across every realm. for me it's
"dog park mommies" with their pets.

hokgardner said...

I spent 7 years as a full-time swim coach at two nationally recognized programs. I've seen and had to deal with all kinds of parents, so these descriptions are very, very familiar. I've always sworn that having dealt with "those" parents I'd never, ever, ever become one myself. So far, so good. But now that my younger daughter has started taking her beloved "ballelet," who knows what I might turn into. I wouldn't mind "crazymom." I'd at least keep everyone on their toes!

Susan said...

Gosh, somehow this Katie and Meagan sound really familiar! I think I may have heard these stories somewhere! :-)

I guess the good thing about having boys is that I'll probably never have to worry about ballet moms.

But oh no... those SOCCER moms!

John said...

As an at-home Dad, I often felt excluded from the groups of my daughters' dance moms (ballet, jazz, hip-hop) even though I was there 5 days per week. After laughing at this posting, I no longer wish I was more included.

Missy said...

John, I always try to include the balletdads in the conversation; one is a personal favorite of mine (he was asked to be the role of coveted Party Dad in Nutcracker, thus infuriating several other shorter, less attractive, less coordinated, more senior ballet parents.) My husband went once when the girls were little and announced solemnly when he came home, "I learned how to to make a delicious and flaky apple pie in a brown paper bag."

I would like to announce at this time that my younger daughter did beat out Granny's girl for a coveted Party Girl spot, and I fully expect Granny to knife me at her earliest opportunity.

Anonymous said...

This is putting me in mind of the Dr. Phil episode which I viewed today. Stage moms. Crazy stage moms.

Missy said...

I use that Dr. Phil episode to prove to my husband there are crazier people than me out there.

Susan Johnston Hamrick said...

I don't even have kids and had to read this blog because of the great name! How funny.

Susan Johnston