Notes to my daughter on failing well

Dear Jewel: for one year we've scrubbed toilets and polished windows at your dance studio to pay for dance lessons. When your friends saw you cleaning and asked why, you smiled and said: "So I can dance." I know that wasn't easy, to clean in front of your friends. But you learned to appreciate the opportunity instead of complaining about what it required of you. You weren't--you aren't--afraid of earning your dream. And you are earning it, one dance step at a time.

This month you've been auditioning for summer intensives with big companies like Boston Ballet and School of American Ballet. You're really hoping for a spot with American Ballet Theatre or the Joffrey. But the rejections are rolling in and sometimes it's hard to keep smiling.

Remember, love, why you smile: because dancing itself fills you with such joy.

It's not the rejections that matter, really. It's how you deal with them, what you do afterwards. I have a feeling these rejections are a necessary kind of truth; the catalyst you need to work harder, be better.

I see you so hopeful at these auditions and it breaks my heart a little to read you the rejection emails. But I read them anyway. You need to know this will never be easy and nobody is going to hand you your dream on a silver platter.

"Mom, it's OK," you said to me last night. "Even if I don't get in, this is a really good experience for me."

Flashes of maturity, words like those. And then, moments of masked despair: this morning you obsessed about the length and width of your bun--emphatically asserting I hadn't coiled it properly. Finally, Daddy spoke up: "Jewel, what really matters is how well you dance today, not whether the bun is perfect."

Still, you wanted me to re-do it. To wrap it up the way we did for the first audition:

But then it was time to go and so I hugged you quick and sent you off with registration papers, photos and directions. Daddy drove you. He called a few minutes ago to say you had finished but were hungry and exhausted. Your fourth audition in two weeks and I think the strain is starting to show.

I'm setting the tea pot now. We'll cuddle up on the couch with a movie tonight--maybe your favorite: Alice in Wonderland. We'll wait for news, perhaps more rejections.

And tomorrow, you'll get up and dance again.