Miss J is a born performer. It is in her blood. She has two passions in her life: singing and dancing. Specifically Irish dancing.
The Irish dancing world can be a competitive one. On any given weekend you can find a competition, called a feis (pronounced, "fesh") to sign up for. Miss J loves to feis.
My feelings are mixed about competitive dance. I have seen the light on a child's face as they jig down the hallway with a tangle of medals jangling around their neck. I have seen the pride on a dancers face when they know they just danced the best they ever have.
And with that, I have also seen the crushing disappointment when a dancer checks a score sheet and does not see her name listed among those who have placed. I have seen champion dancers fall and sprain ankles during competitions. I have seen many, many tears.
I want Miss J to dance because she loves it. Because it makes her feel spectacular. I want dance to free her and not to stress her out. She assures me time and again that she loves to compete. I know this is true because while she may not always be the best dancer on the stage, she is certainly a dancer with presence and always, undeniably, has the biggest smile.
Last weekend Miss J competed in an out-of-state competition seven hours away. It was the first time our family has traveled so far for a competition and Miss J was excited for the feis. She'd practiced hard and was hoping to sweep the medals.
We woke early the morning of the competition and made our way to the hotel cafe for breakfast. As Miss J navigated the breakfast offerings, she overheard two girls talking about Irish dance. Miss J's ears perked up and excitedly asked if they were going to the feis. They were. The girls were sisters. One was the same age as Miss J. The other, two years older.
As I helped M pick out his breakfast, I could hear Miss J and the girls giggling at the make-your-own-waffle station. (Apparently a waffle stuck in the iron is a very funny thing.) They laughed and joked as though they had known each other for years.
As we finished eating, Miss J wished her new friends good luck at the feis.
We arrived at the arena and prepared for the competition. Moments later, her new friends arrived and took seats near ours. Miss J and the other ten year old girl would be dancing on the same stage.
Through the hours of dancing and waiting-to-dance, the girls got more acquainted with each other. They ran between their seats and the stage, arms linked together. They made up a secret handshake. Email addresses were exchanged with promises to write. At one point the laughter got so loud I had to shoot Miss J my best evil-mother-eye as a warning to pipe down.
Midway through the day, I was checking Miss J's syllabus to see what her next dance would be. I noticed that Miss J and her new friend would dance the next dance together. As competitors.
This made me a bit uneasy.
When Miss J and her new friend found this out, the squealed with glee as only ten year old girls can. Knowing that dancers compete two at a time, the girls linked their arms tightly together so that they would not be separated and would compete at the same time.
I heard Miss J tell her new pal, "I am SO happy I get to compete with you!"
One word stuck out.
"With you." Not, "Against you."
The girls danced.
Miss J did not place.
The other girl placed first.
That day Miss J did receive a second place medal, but she did not sweep the medals as she had hoped. I am very proud to say that for Miss J, it really didn't matter.