What you discovered about yourself in raising children wasn’t always agreeable or attractive.

Jonathan Franzen – The Corrections

I read this book recently.  It’s dark, nasty and sometimes worringly resonant.  One section kept quoting chunks of Schopenhauer.

The pleasure in this world, it has been said, outweighs the pain; or, at any rate, there is an even balance between the two.  If the reader wishes to see shortly whether this statement is true, let him compare the respective feelings of two animals, one of which is engaged on eating the other.

I did say it was dark.

I tend to focus on the negative a bit much.  I’m not really sure why.  This made it all the more pleasurable to discover that one of the first things we humans learn how to do is smile and laugh, or how much pleasure it was possible to take in touching the skin of your baby and delighting in its softness.

Which means the quote at the top of this post can also be taken another way.  That your previous attitudes to certain things may have actually been disagreeable and unattractive.  That having a child can improve parts of you (while, at the same time, reveal other less pleasant qualities).  I can remember when I was about twenty sneering at the notion of having children, and making caustic remarks about people with young children.  In hindsight this was a fairly immature and unpleasant thing to do.  If people want to have kids let them have kids, and if they don’t they don’t.

The most recent surprise for me was the thrill I experienced when Cathy and I took Eleanor to Gubbs and kitted her out for her ballet lessons.  Eleanor has been pining to take lessons for months, and when other little girls at creche came in and demonstrated their moves she was an enthralled spectator and then an enthusiastic participant.  Finally she was able to go to the shop and live out one of her fantasies: to try on her very own ballet outfit.  There were tights, and a leotard, a little cardigan and, of course, the true highlight, a tiny little pair of ballet slippers.  I don’t think I can explain how happy I was to see Eleanor so happy.

If my former self had passed by the window of Gubbs at that moment I imagine he would have sneered at the little scene.

Later, at home, Eleanor wanted to try all the gear on again, and then asked, hopefully, if she could wear it to bed.  Cathy and I encouraged her to try some ballet moves and she obliged by waving her arms about, holding her leg out and pointing her toe.  The lessons when they begin will not, naturally, be ballet lessons, they will be dancing-around-to-music lessons, but it will be great fun, and I shall very much enjoy going along.

12 thoughts on “Ballet”

  1. Ah yes, even an old man like me remembers taking his daughter to ballet lessons. Having a daughter, after being brought up with only brothers, rugby and playing war (sorry, but we did), was a complete change and a peep into a quite different world. A daughter is good for a man – a very special gift.

  2. I too can remember taking my wee daughter to ballet, dance, highland dance and gymnastic lessons.
    At the time I felt a bit put upon. I was just a glorified taxi driver.
    As I began to understand how much she enjoyed it, I began to mellow.
    Enjoy the time with your daughter now. I mean it, enjoy it now, because when she discovers boys/booze/parties (without ice cream and jelly)/low cut blouses, revealing outfits/boyfriends with piercings/scars/trackmarks/criminal records and bad body odour, you will look back at these innocent times and sigh.
    Enjoy the innocence and happiness. Let Eleanor sleep in her outfit. it won’t hurt her or her clothes.

  3. I remember going to ballet lessons and dancing the sugar plum fairy dance and a dance recital. I remember my little ballet shoes, the soft sink leather with that subtle leather smell. I can’t remember if I slept in them, but I bet I asked.

  4. Fflur, Were your shoes really made from an old leather sink? I’ve never heard of leather sinks before.

  5. Richard, I think that Fflur meant Skink leather. In Taranaki, being on the extreme Western border of New Zealand, times were tough when she was growing up. All sheep and cattle produced were exported whole to UK, Australia, USA, Wellington and Auckland. The poor Nakians had nothing to eat, wear or put on their feet so resorted to old pre-European methods of feeding and clothing themselves. Rats, Keruru, dogs and the odd lost traveller became staple for both food and clothing. Please don’t embarass her by drawing attention to the fact that her parents made her shoes from the skin of the Common Skink.

  6. My girl went to Ballet lesson for three terms. She was delighted when I came to her recital. I was too. It breaks your heart (in a good way) to see ’em so happy, to feel so proud. Such a trivial thing but it don’t stop them feelings pouring through.

  7. I believe I meant pink? Must have been a bad day on the typing front, since that was not the only mistake.

  8. And another! That was not a question. I did mean pink, I was not asking you all if I did mean that.

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