Thoughts from a Dance Dad

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So last weekend was what has become a very important part of our spring. Dance recital weekend. Both of my girls have been dancing since before they were three. It’s been interesting to watch some of the families do their one year of dance, check it off their list and move on to the next activity because i can’t imagine our year without dance.

I think my daughters have learned so much more than just how to do a plie. They have learned about life. Cooperation and teamwork abound amidst all the drama that can occur when you gather a couple hundred girls aged 3-17 in one place. No not drama like on that overly-scripted “reality” show Dance Moms. But typical pre-teen and teenaged drama.

I will say that an increasing number of parents ACT like they are on dance moms. No matter how many signs are posted, how many announcements are made, there are always a group of parents who think the rules don’t apply to them. So to the lady sitting in the stage left section in the second row dancing her daughter’s dance from her seat while taking flash photos of her daughter staring at her like “if you are going to dance, I’m just going to stand here” – please know that the NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY rule applies to you too. And to the woman in front of me in the center section – row 3 – yes I saw your flip camera. Everyone did because it was shining in our faces as you video’d your daughter’s dance. And yes, the NO VIDEO RULE applies to you too.

However, all of this behavior is NOT because we have a screaming, obnoxious dance teacher egging on the moms and kids. No, we have the polar opposite of that.

Melissa Nemetz has been our girls’ primary dance teacher since the beginning and she celebrated her 20th recital this year even though she is only 22, as she said at the event. And Melissa has played the role of dance teacher, confidante, counselor, and dare I say even a favorite auntie or big sister. The girls have learned – and continue to learn – life lessons every time they are exposed to Miss Melissa. And as a dance dad, I have to say I enjoy our conversations and look forward to the opportunities to pop into the studio and have a chat too.

Melissa is supportive of the girls’ other activities but wants them to also push themselves to be the best they can be every week – every year – in their dance classes.

I’ve watched both of my girls grow into beautiful, confident young ladies who are at ease in the studio and on stage. I hope that dance remains part of our family’s life for as long as our girls are able to stay – and I hope that Melissa remains a friend for life.

Dance on.

Garage Sale Season

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The signs are popping up.  Multi family garage sale.  Neighborhood yard sale.  It’s that time of the year.  And I don’t get it.  

Why why why do people buy each other’s trash?  What it is about other people’s throwaways that will bring hundreds of people to a neighborhood before 8 a.m. to scout out the “best stuff” before the official start of a sale?  

Our neighborhood is holding one of these full blown sales in a couple of weeks and yes, we are participating.  Why?  Why not?  We have SO much junk.  Yes I said it…junk..piled up in the garage and attic that it would seem wasteful to just throw it all away.  We could donate it of course – and we will donate the leftovers – but it just seems like selling it fits into the fabric of America, baseball and apple pie.  

And our kids are so excited. They can’t wait to sell their old toys.  “I get to keep the money, right.”  Of course.  Why not? 

But there is something just a little creepy about having strangers waiting at the top of the driveway as you finish setting up while trying to chug enough coffee to get through this.  The only good news is that my 13-year-old has a swim meet, so I’ll be heading there before the trash pickers show up in the ‘hood.

I hear that there are people who scout out these sales and go to every one. I am stressing about the time we have to spend on our own. I can’t even imagine willingly heading to someone else’s neighborhood to pick through their trash.  But this is America and to each his or her own.  

And I hate to break it to anyone coming to our sale.  But you aren’t going to find any hidden treasures to take on the Antique Roadshow. You will find a lot of big plastic toys and baby items.  Come and get it!  

Moms Rule

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I love moms. All it took was the instant bond that my daughters had with my wife to realize how special the relationship is between a mom and her kids.  Of course I remember the way I felt about my mom and how devastating it was to lose her at such a young age (her 50, me 19) and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her and lament that she never got to meet my wife and kids.  How she would have loved my girls and celebrated every day being their Nana. But sometimes life isn’t fair.

When I married Mina I got a great gift – a mother in law who was so loving and accepting that I instantly felt like a member of the family after just a few dates.  As much as I fell in love with my wife on the night we met, I also knew that joining our families together was meant to be after a very short time. But again, life isn’t fair and when pancreatic cancer took Elli away from us in a dramatically swift period of time, a huge hole was left in the life of our family. This loss was cruel since my girls were (and are) so young and YiaYia was such a center of our world.

But just as life is not always fair, it does go on.  I think of these two great women every day and like to imagine that they have met in the next life and watch over our little family with the love they showed while on earth.

But let’s move on to the mom who is currently at the center of my world.  My wife Mina who is a mother for the ages.  Now the girls love us both of course and they like me just fine.  But loving and liking are two different things sometimes and they REALLY like Mina. All things being equal, given the chance to hang out with mom or dad they will choose mom 95 percent of the time. I used to take it personally but now I just know it’s a fact of life.  Poor Mina, however, could really use a cloning machine or the ability to physically split herself in two.  It would make life easier.  There are times when we are all in the same room and I am just hanging out on Facebook or watching something on TV and Mina is running around doing 100 things and both girls will say “Mom, can you….” Not because they don’t think dad can do whatever they need but because they’d prefer to have mom do it.  So just to give a short list, Mina works part time (but puts in full-timeish hours), serves as PFA president, volunteers at both schools, is an assistant girl scout leader, does 200 loads of laundry a week (at least), makes sure that both girls are tucked in every night, administers any medicine or first aid needed, takes the girls to the mall, the shoe store, the dance supply store, for ice cream and at least 1000 other things I have forgotten.

I just plan vacations.  Well, not quite but some days it seems that way.

So in an ode to moms everywhere, thank you.  Us men folk appreciate you more than you could ever imagine.  And we are in awe of your amazing mom powers to do 100 things at one time and still have the kids want you.  And only you.  And even though it sometimes seems like you will physically split in two, just appreciate that it all stems from the love and connection that your kids have with you.  Happy Mother’s Day. 

Panera is not a private meeting space

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I admit it. I come to Panera on occasion to write. In fact I am at a Panera right now. I also go to Starbucks, the non-franchise coffee bar and the wood-oven pizza place.  As a former news reporter – a really really long time ago – I have always written better and faster when I have a buzz around me. I think it’s the newsroom’s fault. Since I work from an office located inside my home and I’m generally there alone, it can sometimes get too quiet.

So I come to Panera – usually just before lunch – and buy my lunch, eat and write. It always works. It was working today before I got distracted.  Let me count the ways.

As I sit here now, i can see three tables of people. And unfortunately I can’t help but HEAR one table.  The two tables that I don’t hear have a guy who was here when I got here and looks like he is here forever.  He has a small cup of coffee in front of him. I’m okay with that. He made a purchase. The other quiet table has two guys clearly “meeting” about something.  Did they buy anything?  Nope.  Just taking up a table of four with their laptops. Maybe they are waiting til they are good and hungry. I still have hope. One guy looks like he really likes cookies.

The third table – the one I have to stare at from my seat.  And the one that I can’t help but overhear EVERY word because they are talking so loudly.  This is the one that I want the Panera police to come after. A woman – clearly angry at the world – marched in, sat down and crossed her arms.  Fifteen minutes later a guy in a suit comes in and sits down and unloads his briefcase. I don’t know if he is her lawyer, accountant, business coach, psychologist or boyfriend. Because they have talked about subjects that could apply to any of those situations. And even though I tried to stare them down so they’d quiet down, it didn’t phase them.

They have bought nothing. And clearly they have no intention of doing so. I know Panera isn’t sweating it but it just annoys me that people set meetings here and don’t make a purchase.  Everyone is in business to make money.  You buying that $2 cup of coffee isn’t going to pay to keep the lights on – or even for the free wireless you are using or electricity to keep your laptop charged. But it’s just common courtesy.

I really wish some of these places would enforce a “you gotta buy something” policy for people who use their facility as their offices.  Now it’s time to change seats so I can get some more work done.  Maybe I’ll buy another cup of coffee to make up for these freeloaders.