I had a great conversation with my daughter tonight. She’s now well into her fourth week at the Kirov Academy of Ballet, and by all measures, is thriving. Straight As in all her academic classes, getting lots of support and praise from some of the world’s best ballet instructors, making friends from around the world.
One of those friends is a boy her age from Russia who sits next to her in math class.
“I think he likes me, Dad,” she reports.
I stifle my first impulse which, as every father of every daughter knows, is to drive directly to D.C., seek the boy out, and have a little chat with him.
“How do you know that?” I ask, innocently enough.
“He told me today that I was pretty, but his English isn’t so good, so he told me I was pretty like a fish.”
How nice it is to laugh with her, my only girl, now growing in ways beyond measure and beyond my reach.
The costs of sending her away are high: the sharp pang of sadness when I pass her empty room in the morning; the absence that fills our house, nearly as tangible as her presence; the difficulty in trying to make our phone calls and texts pass for real face-to-face interaction; the financial burden her education has placed on us all. And yet …
It’s hard not to see how much the world is opening up before her. She’s on the path to becoming the dancer she has long dreamed of becoming. She has classmates and friends from Russia, Japan, China, and other far-flung spots around the world. Such opportunities are rare, and she has worked — and continues to work — hard to take full advantage of hers.
And in the end, isn’t that what we are supposed to do as parents — prepare our children for a world of possibilities and then turn them loose in it? We certainly never planned that we would be doing so with our youngest so soon, but there it is. She’s there. The world is opening up before her. I can only wonder at her promise and potential, catch her when she falls, and pray that she will forever be safe, smart, and pretty like a fish.
(As always, if you’d like to write Claire a note of encouragement or contribute to her scholarship fund, you can do so at One Dancer’s Dream, P. O. Box 11141, Blacksburg, VA 24062)