Yummy Mummy dying swans

The parents are invited to watch the last ballet and tap class of every term. This usually involves us perching on teeny tiny chairs around the of the hall and giggling watching proudly as our darling daughters harrumph around a church hall in the name of dance.

Yesterday’s ‘Watch Day’ was a little different. We were invited to make a small contribution to charity and had to pay £2 to watch the class or £1 to take part. We all paid the £2 and settled down to watch…

…until the children were asked to find a partner for the tap side-step and G was left on her own in the middle of the floor. She looked over at me, mournfully (she’ll win an Oscar one day) and I had to go and help her out. She and I galloped up and down together like characters from a Jane Austen novel (I’m so going to be Mrs Bennett from Pride and Prejudice in a few years), only in skinny jeans and a scarf (me) and mad hair (G). When the sequence was over I sat down again, ignoring the smirks of our parent friends.

The children put their tap shoes away and got out the ballet shoes for the second half of the class. One of our mum friends leapt up and said ‘C’mon Jo’ as she motioned towards the dance floor. I muttered swear words (extremely) under my breath and joined the others. It was SO much fun. We did first position, plie, jete and skipping. One of our dad friends joined in and was greeted with hoots of laughter as he turned his toes out. His daughter looked mortified and ordered him to sit down immediately. He skulked off back to his seat as the rest of us tried gamely to balance on one leg.

We’re now thinking of setting up a legs-akimbo style dance troupe for elderly yummy mummies in order to extract maximum embarrassment from our daughters.

As I skipped around the hall, scarf flying behind me and hair all over the place, I passed Dh and hissed – loudly – next time it’s YOUR turn. He was too busy capturing the moment on his phone.

No I won’t be posting the photos – or videos – on here.

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Boy band heaven

The 4th birthday party we attended on Saturday (the 4th one of the year so far) had a disco. There was some B*eb*r, some Agadoo and then What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction came on. The girls, acting as if they had been hypnotised, climbed off the bouncy castle and launched into a choreographed dance routine.

Dh and I (once we’d recovered from the shock) asked where they had a. Heard the song (we’re always a bit dubious since the B*eb*r incident at nursery a year or so ago) and b. Learnt the moves. Apparently it’s one of the things they do in the tap element of their combined ballet and tap class.

I felt it was motherly duty to download the song so they could practice at home. I bought the song on my phone and when I played them the opening bars their eyes lit up. I then searched YouTube for the accompanying video but to no avail so I downloaded (i.e. BOUGHT) the video as well. I explained that the boys in the video sang the song (I haven’t tried them on MTV and the like since they were about 18 months old) and R asked me what the boys were called.

It would be easy for me to lie at this point and say I didn’t know so I had to Google the answer, but I didn’t. I knew all of the names off by heart thanks to my X-Factor habit and my frankly ludicrous recall of celebrity gossip. (Maths? Not so much. Celebrity trivia? I’d get an Olympic gold medal ).

G decided that Liam was very clever because he was able to sit on a fence. R asked why Harry was talking to ‘that girl like that’. I said they were very good friends. They’re 4 years old – that’s enough of an answer for now.

Dh took a video of the girls doing the dance but it’s really dark so I’ll have to try and capture it again. It’ll be great blackmail material for the inevitable moment that they decide to paint their bedroom black and become goths.

Coffee confessions

Every Saturday morning during term-time a small group of four or five people drop their daughters off at ballet and tap class and traipse round to someone’s house for coffee. The coffee sessions only last three-quarters of an hour but the people use the time to swap stories from the front line of parenting.

They even have a motto: ‘What gets said in this house stays within these four walls’.

Of course, I’m referring to Dh and I and a small gang of parents whose children attend the same dance class. They all attended the same nursery until last September when three of the girls went off to prep schools. R and G are the only ones left at nursery, so they started doing Baby Ballet last term as a way of keeping in touch with some of their oldest friends.

All five of the girls moved up to ‘Twinkle Toes’, the combined ballet and tap class for children aged 4-5 in January. The Baby Ballet class was only half an hour so we used to rush through our drinks and head back to the class, which, handily is held in a church hall at the end of our road. Twinkle Toes is slightly longer so we now get to sup our drinks in a relatively languorous manner.

The gang tends to meet at our house because Dh has a rather fancy coffee machine. It’s his third baby, basically. I don’t drink coffee (or tea) but his wonder machine also makes hot chocolate (and cappuccino, espresso and mocha) so that’s my drink of choice. With the exception of one of the Dads who only drinks tea, the other parents nurse their expertly-made coffees.

Our girls were all born between December 2007 and April 2008, so we compare stories and swap parenting tips. We’ve all sat head in hands despairing about the tantrums our strong-willed, larger than life, forces-of-nature daughters continue to have well after the supposed ‘Terrible Twos’. We’ve swapped stories of depression, tablets and CBT therapies. We laugh at the funny things the girls say and compare notes on different education settings. We also weave grown-up topics into the discussion: this morning we discussed sporting allegiances and feisty parents, for example. The other week we talked about Apartheid. Sometimes we discuss rare nights out and the after-effects. It all depends on what we want – or need – to talk about.

I find the coffee chats incredibly reassuring. Dh and I have really been tearing our hair out over G for the last few months (I’ll say more on that in the next few days) and wondered what on earth we were doing wrong. The coffee confessions have revealed that we’re not alone in feeling helpless and that actually some of G’s more outlandish behaviour is pretty normal for a four year old girl (well, that or there’s something in the water round here that makes the girls super-feisty). As a parent, one of the best sentences you can hear is ‘We’re going through that too’. It instantly normalises a situation in which you thought you were totally alone, which is incredibly helpful.

At 10.10am we gather up the empty cups and trot back to the church hall where five little girls, all red-faced and excited, greet us with news of new tap moves, reward stickers and jelly sweets. Sometimes we pop round to the other houses to play for a bit. Sometimes they come to ours. Sometimes we all go our separate ways, but I think that all of the parents carry on with their day safe in the knowledge that their confessions won’t be shared outside the group. Whatever happens that week, they know they can let it all out at the coffee confession session the following Saturday.

Dying swans

After debating it for a few months, we have finally signed the girls up for ballet classes. They absolutely adored the one-off class they attended on holiday and G even told her old keyworker at nursery that she had ballet, tennis AND swimming lessons. I had to point out that none of this was true, lest they think that we spoil our children with a zillion extra-curricular activities. Now, at least, G isn’t lying about one of the activities. A couple of their friends from nursery attend a class in a church hall about two minutes walk away from us on Saturday mornings, so it made sense to book them in for a taster session.

The dance school runs ballet classes for 3-4 year olds and ballet and tap for 4-5 year olds. The teacher suggested that as they are nearly four, they could try out both classes and see which they preferred. We didn’t tell their friends (or their parents) that we would be at yesterday’s class so there were some surprised (and pleased) looks when they arrived.

I’ll say one thing for R and G – they don’t lack confidence. There were a couple of other new starters and they were much more reticent but the girls got stuck in straight away. I guess that one of the great things about being a twin is that you’re never alone when you try something new and it probably helped that a couple of people they knew were already established members of the class

Eventually we’ll be able to drop them off and disappear for half an hour while they attend the class but yesterday Dh and I stayed to watch. They are both very co-ordinated (far more than me) and R has the potential to master the technical skills while G is more in tune with the ‘drama’ of the dance. R absolutely adored the tap dancing section of the older class and took the opportunity to stomp around with the other girls.

I spoke to the teacher afterwards and she said it looked like the girls could cope with either class, so it was up to us. I said that they would do the 3-4 years ballet class this term, and move up to the ballet and tap class after Christmas. I’m confident that they could cope in the older class now, but their friends (who both now attend prep school and therefore the girls don’t see them as much) are in the ballet class and from a purely practical point of view I wanted to spread the cost of two sets of ballet and tap gear over a few months, rather than one massive hit.

We’ve been given a list of clothes and shoes to buy – pink leotards, tights and ballet shoes for ballet and the same clothes for tap but different (preferably white) shoes. There’s a shop about four miles away and we’ll be going there to kit the girls out in the week because we went there today and it was closed. The Academy puts a show on at the end of the Summer Term (the photos from the last one were adorable) and, if the girls are still interested, they have the chance to do exams when they get a bit older.

For now, I just want them to have a great time prancing about in girlie outfits. They already do Sporty Tots at nursery (yes, G does it as well now) so I think we’re covering both ends of the activity spectrum. The only sticking point I can see is that, ideally, their hair needs to be neat and ‘up’. As they both have reasonably short hair and absolutely hate having it brushed or tamed in any way, we may have to strap them to a chair or style them when they’re asleep bribe them work on that.

Sporty tots

Identical schmidentical.

On Thursday afternoons at nursery R participates in Sporty Tots, which is a sports session designed specifically for pre-schoolers and run by Arsenal FC. Each week, she and a group of children learn about different sports and get to try them out. Today for example they did some rugby, which involved keeping hold of an oval ball whilst running about, from what we can work out. Last week they were catching balls in nets. You get the idea…

G has also been offered the opportunity to participate in Sporty Tots and point-blank refuses. Each Thursday morning we ask her if she wants to try it out (the first session is free; it’s £3 a week thereafter) and she says yes and by the afternoon she has changed her mind and stays indoors playing with her friends while R take part outside. At first glance G appears to be the more amenable of the two but when she decides she doesn’t want to do something she really won’t do it.

In the interests of fairness (if not my bank balance) I’d like her to get involved but I totally understand why she might not want to. I wasn’t particularly interested in playing sports as a child and was far happier in the company of adults or curled up with a good book. R is very good at throwing and catching balls and is a speedy little runner so I’m not surprised that she loves doing sports.

I’m now looking for an activity to G to do to even things up a bit. There are some local ballet classes that I need to investigate but, again in the interests of fairness I need to take both girls along to see if they like it. If R wants to take ballet classes as well I can hardly say no can I?

Winding forward a few years, I can see myself becoming a Saturday morning ‘Soccer Mom’, ferrying R to one activity and G to something else. The main thing is that we’re giving R and G equal opportunity to take part in activities and develop their interests. The rest is really up to them.