Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Other mothers' daughters

I have recently had the great honor and privilege to be a chaperone for EB and two of her friends. It's given me the chance, for two years in a row, to get to know the daughters of two of my closest friends. And I have to say, I've fallen in love.

The occasion was a two-day dance workshop and this was the second year I had chosen to go. I liked watching EB and her friends work through seven- and six-hour days of dance, and it isn't the torture that it sounds. At least not for me.

At this particular workshop, about a hundred or so kids from all different dance schools gather and try to glean what they can from different teachers in ballet, tap, jazz, and hip-hop. Each hour is a different genre. Some teachers are upbeat and very energetic, some are slow and deliberately precise. But the girls from EB's dance studio are encouraged to take every class, even the ones they don't like, and try to get something from every teacher. It's quite the workout, and her teacher only offers this opportunity to her helpers.

EB's friends have been dancing since they were preschoolers. One started when she was three, just like EB, the other came on the following summer. EB took to her also, and they all became fast friends. There had been four friends, but when she was about nine, one girl decided she didn't want to dance anymore, so we lost one member. In the meantime, we four moms had also become good friends, spending the hour or so of dance class at Starbucks. We drank a lot of coffee over a lot of years. And we became close, independent of our children.

But our knowledge of our respective offspring only came from our own personal experiences.

So it was such an eye-opener, first last year, and then again this one, to spend time with my friends' daughters independently. Not only did the moms trust me, the girls apparently had no misgivings about having me as a chaperone, cheerfully engaging in conversations and telling funny stories about their home life and their moms. And I saw my friends from their daughters' prospective. It was enlightening and entertaining.

One daughter is so much like her mom she makes me laugh out loud. When I first met her, I never heard her say a word. In fact for about three years, I don't think I heard her voice. I used to ask EB, does she say anything? EB assured me that she did. Now this girl's mom is funny, and bubbly, and a talker. I figured her daughter was just naturally quiet, or couldn't get a word in edge-wise. Not much. She's so funny and bubbly like her mom, I was laughing out loud, especially when I had to shush her.

The other daughter is introspective, and yet has her own great personality. I saw her mother in her too. The three girls together were incredibly silly, and funny, and loud. I loved observing the way they related to each other and the parallels I could draw. Their mothers are wonderful people. Their daughters reflect that.

When we moms get together, we commiserate about the frustrations of having preteen girls. The girls we know as our daughters' friends are polite, well-spoken, intelligent, self-assured and funny as all get-out. The daughters we are raising can be sullen, stubborn, occasionally fresh-mouthed, sassy and exasperating. We all joke about how good our kids are around other people. We  are all shocked to hear of the stories of sassy exchanges from our daughters' friends to their moms. We're all in the same boat.

Our daughters are wonderful when they're not with us. Spending time with other mothers' daughters is a big relief and a huge treat. Even when they're not around us, they're a lot of fun -- and they really do us proud.

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