When I was the age my toddler is now, my mum signed me up to ballet lessons. I loved them.
Ballet was a big part of our Saturday morning routine throughout my childhood. The walk along the leafy Bristol streets, hand in hand with my mum, chattering away. The smell of new ballet shoes and the excitement of visiting the dance shop with all its multi-coloured tutus. Sitting in a freezing church hall practising “good toes, naughty toes” before getting onto the fun stuff – the jumps and the routines.
Parenthood has a habit of bringing all the best bits of our own early years into sharp focus. I can still hear the rip as my friend shredded my pink tutu, made lovingly by my mum, during one of the many shows we put on for the adults (who were probably incredibly bored at the time but did a great job of hiding it). I can still feel the scratchy net, deliciously puffy and rigid against my skin, as I proudly pointed my toes and imagined myself the lead role in Swan Lake.
As I got older, dance continued to be a big part of my life.
I gave up ballet for a while and started jazz. I joined a contemporary dance group and rehearsed for hours during weekends. I danced and danced and danced.
And then I stopped.
It was around the time I had to make my decisions about which subjects to continue with at A’Level. I chose not to take up dance and to focus on the other things I loved – writing and journalism. And just like that, those early Saturday mornings and scratchy lycra and freezing cold church halls were gone.
But I remember them fondly.
So it was with a sense of regret I listened to the words of my toddler’s physiotherapist recently. “As she grows up, it’s a good idea to encourage her to take part in sports like swimming and cycling,” she said. “Although her flexible joints are likely to make her quite good at things like ballet, those kinds of activities might place too much stress on them and cause her pain.”
Instantly, the idea of walking hand in hand with my own daughter to ballet lessons, watching her line up alongside the other children to perform “good toes, naughty toes”, tying her hair back into a bun with grips and hair nets… all those images went out of the window.
The thing is, I’m aware Frog might not even like ballet. She loves swimming and reading and music. She loves drawing and digging for worms and jumping in puddles. She loves the same kinds of things most two year olds do. It’s not like she’s pirouetting round the living room or performing arabesques across the garden.
But one day she might. One day she might turn to me and say, “Mummy, can I do ballet?”
And I’m not quite sure what I’ll say to that.
Perhaps her hypermobile joints might not cause her discomfort, in which case ballet – or any kind of dance – is a possibility. As she’s just a toddler, it’s difficult to predict if her hyperflexibility will hold her back as she grows up or if she’ll catch up with her peers when it comes to physical milestones. After all, she’s only been walking a couple of months and she’s already running and jumping.
It’s an unknown, like most things parenting related.
For now though, I think we’ll content ourselves with just wearing the tutu. And reading in it. And spilling baked beans on it. And pretty much never taking it off.
After all, the tutu’s the most important bit about ballet. Right?
This post has been written for this week’s Gallery, where the theme is Sport. Head over to Sticky Fingers to read the rest.