On Saturday at dress rehearsal, my daughter was the only one who refused to even participate. It was her first real recital on a big stage in a big auditorium. She felt nervous and unprepared, since her best friend and dance partner had hurt her arm and couldn’t perform with her. My heart sank as she peeked out from behind the curtain, watching the rest of her class perform their ballet number to John Lennon’s “Imagine” they had worked on for months. At home that night, we talked to her about being brave, and the importance of facing your fears so you can overcome them and never be afraid of them again. Then about how she looks just like Merida on the Disney movie Brave. Then about how she could get ice cream if she just went on the stage with the rest of her class tomorrow. And how she can not get ice cream if she doesn’t go on stage, sorry. Nope. No ice cream if you don’t dance. What can I say, it was not our finest moment. It started out pretty good, and devolved quickly into bribery and talking about cartoons. Then we talked to each other about not being disappointed if she wasn’t dancing with the rest of the class tomorrow. Yes, even after we make Grandma and Grandpa sit in traffic for 2 hours just to see her. I tried to tell myself it wouldn’t be the end of the world if she just wasn’t ready. She didn’t seem ready. Then I started to feel like kind of a jerk for caring so much. What was I, some kind of deranged stage mom? On the day of the performance as I sent her back to line up with the rest of her class, she had tears in her eyes. So did I. I hugged her as hard as I could and told her that she would be awesome no matter what. Watching the other classes before hers in the dark middle school auditorium, I finally began to relax and knew that no matter how it turned out, in a few years she would have brand new interests that may or may not include dance class, and will have completely forgotten about this. Just kidding, I mentally played out the extensive shame cycle of disappointment she would experience if she didn’t dance with the rest of her class today and how it would negatively affect her life choices from now until approximately age 38. Normal mom stuff. It was time for her class to go on. I realized I hadn’t breathed in a couple of hours. The curtain inched open, and there she was. Smiling! Dancing! The song ended, and we all rushed backstage to congratulate her. She was so proud, and so happy. And I suddenly knew with all my heart that I was not a deranged stage mom. The look of victory on her face told me why I cared so much.