Our weather is changing. Long sleeves are going into storage and arms are getting ready to greet the sunshine. It is time to switch over the girls’ clothes. As I make my little stacks, I notice that most of Adelaide’s 4t shirts have ballerinas, dancers, or ballet shoes plastered across the front.
Adelaide is 3-years-old, but long outgrew her 3t shirts. Her head is fairly large. I am looking at a pile of shirts passed down from my husband’s co-worker. Her daughter dances. And I recall some photos of their adorable 4-year-old dancing on a stage.
It’s not cliche, it’s just truth…many girls’ first dreams are filled with pirouettes and jumps. It may be for only one afternoon or a lifetime, but little girls dress up in tutus and put their hair up and walk on their tiptoes.
I stare at these shirts thinking, “Do I really put these on Adelaide? As she is strapped into a wheelchair, do I push her around with a dancing preschooler on her chest? Does she don these tops covered in pointe shoes while wearing nested ankle and calf-high orthotics and extra wide tennis shoes with no marks on the soles?”
I turn to Dave, “Seems like all 4t girl clothing has ballerinas on it.” His response: “Let’s design a line of clothing that has really cute wheelchairs.” He smirks. We both laugh. As if we have all kinds of time to design and sell clothing that better represents our daughter’s mode of transportation.
But it’s not just the dancing that hurts my mom heart. Adelaide doesn’t have hobbies. She likes to count for self-stimulation. She spends much of her day eating toys. It’s our normal. I am accustomed to our life. But then I see these shirts and realize the chasm.
Other girls are dreaming about being dancers, astronomers, professors, entrepreneurs. Does Adelaide dream? I can’t access her mind. She can’t tell me. Does she want to be a dancer? Does she even like the shirt I am putting on her? I have no idea. Do we dress her in clothes that remind me at every glance that she will never be a ‘typical’ ballerina?
Not every girl dances anyway, so it shouldn’t be an issue. Girls are diverse and amazing. My ballet instructor sheepishly told me that all girls are good at something, but not every girl is good at dancing. I didn’t get the hint. “You are very bright and beautiful and will be wonderful at so many things, but dancing isn’t one of them.” She killed my ballet dreams one spring morning. I won’t do that to Adelaide.
If she has dreams, I want to nurture them and be those rays of sunlight that feed her blossoming aspirations. We will go out in the ballet tops and ballet orthotic socks and they will become reminders that girls are strong and graceful and athletic and full of possibility.
And whether your ankles and calves are wrapped in silky ribbon or plastic and velcro, every girl deserves the chance to dream of being on that stage. And we have no idea what Adelaide’s future holds or what she wants for herself, but we long to find out.
Who knows what will happen before it’s time to unpack those long-sleeved shirts covered in ice skaters. Maybe our little girl will use a meaningful sign to tell us about a hobby she wants to try out. I hear the adaptive dancing instructors in our town are wonderful. And Adelaide looks precious in tutus when she isn’t trying to eat them.