I told her it wouldn't be easy, that even when we love something passionately, we must still work hard for it. And she agreed. She practiced at home, stretching and doing exercises on the floor and in the hallway, using the windowsill as a barre.
I told her she had to keep her grades up, prove to us that she could handle it.
And she agreed. She's kept a nearly 4.0 GPA for the past 2 years.
And then, I told her that dancing lessons were expensive and that we'd have to work to earn her tuition.
At first, she was perplexed. "But none of the other girls have to work for their lessons," she said.
"I know," I answered. "But none of the other girls have five children in their family. The fact that we get to work for your lessons is actually a generous opportunity from the studio owner. We should be thankful."
She nodded, quietly.
"There's no shame in working for something you want," I said, trying to coax a smile out of her. "In fact, it's a noble thing, really. We get to work so you can dance five times a week!"
She nodded again.
It took several weeks before she settled into the work routine with a smile. Every Saturday we work in her dance studio scrubbing toilets, vacuuming floors, wiping down mirrors and windows.
I waited for her smile, hoping she would see the value in earning her way. One Saturday I was sick, but I still took her to the studio and we cleaned together.
"Mommy," she said afterwards, "I'm sorry I had a bad attitude. I can't believe you're doing this for me...even when you're sick!"
I smiled at her. Was she finally getting it?
"I'll never complain again," she promised. And she hasn't.
Last week she earned her pointe shoes.