Wednesday, February 15, 2017
The First School Dance
"This is ridiculous," Natalie said, digging underneath the cabinet of the bathroom sink. "Why can't I find a curling iron?"
"Probably," I spoke up, "because we don't have one."
Her head emerged from the underneath the sink and her jaw dropped open.
"I never use one," I explained. It's true. I am not girly. I have unruly thick hair that I simply toss back into a ponytail. Sometimes I will straighten it, but it's rare because it takes ages, and frankly, I'd rather read.
"We need a curling iron!" Natalie insisted. "I wanted my hair to be curled for the dance and now I'm stuck with this." She flicked her straight hair behind her shoulder. She does not have my thick hair. She has her Daddy's thin hair. She sometimes gets her hair curled at her friend's house and I must admit, she does look precious:
But I wouldn't know how to do her hair like that. Her friend's cousin did it. I am terrible with hair, much to Natalie chagrin. She once asked me to French braid her hair and I stared at her blankly. Then she asked me to make a shape out of little braids and I blinked at her. Sure, there are YouTube videos, but it doesn't matter. I am terrible with hair.
"I'll brush your hair out. Or I can straighten it," I offered.
Natalie sighed and gave me one of her famous tween I-can't-believe-you're-my-mother Looks. "No," she replied. "I'll just leave my hair as it is. Boring."
"Great," I said cheerfully, because going down a Tween moodswing hole is not wise. I've learned that the hard way.
At least Natalie approved of her dress. This is because she picked it out. The ones I pick out are either too itchy, too weird, or "ugly."
"Take a picture!" Natalie insisted. "Of me like this. It's what the models do."
Then we headed for the dance. It wasn't anything terribly fancy. Grades PreK-5th could show up. I came armed with two very important items:
The drink is full of Diet Coke because if I had to be in a room filled with screeching kids for two hours, yes, I was getting a Diet Coke.
Natalie found her friends. She danced. I read. Or tried to. Whenever I'd start, she'd come over with girl drama. Someone felt left out, because someone talked to someone else. I dealt with that. I reminded the girls that they could talk to others and that it would be okay.
I went back to reading.
"Mommy," Natalie said and I inwardly groaned. I set down my book.
"My friend is in the hall crying."
I rubbed my temples. "Why?"
"A boy called her smelly."
"Where's her parent?" I mean, seriously. Why was it my problem?
I blinked. The rules of the dance stated that parents had to stay. But I guess rules don't apply to everyone. I sighed and went out to the hall. I found a child in the famous "tween drama" position: on the ground, legs bent, with her face pressed against her knees.
"Here's my Mom," Natalie called out kindly.
I stood awkwardly. I never know what to say or do to other kids. Do I get down to their level? But in fourth grade, they might find it offensive. Do I treat them like teenagers and go, "What's with the tears, yo?"
"Well," I said, scratching my cheek. "Well." I peered around, hoping for another adult. No luck.
"She doesn't smell," Natalie said firmly.
"You don't smell," I confirmed. I sniffed. I didn't smell anything but floor cleaner.
The girl peeked up. "But he said I did."
"Boys can be..."
"Dumb," Natalie finished.
"Let's be kind," I reminded her, even though I sort of wanted to cheer and go, "Yes! Yes, they can be!"
"Come on, let's dance!" Natalie said, trying to grab the girl's hand.
The girl was back to hiding her face in her knees.
Then Natalie's other friends came over. "I knew it! Natalie is with her and is ignoring us!" one girl said.
For the love of--
"She's just helping her," I spoke up.
Pairs of tween eyes glared at me.
"She's upset," I said meekly. I was a little afraid.
"You don't smell," Natalie tried again to her tearful friend. "Let's go dance!"
"Yes, go dance. There's only..." I checked my phone and whispered to myself, "Please let it be only a half hour left.." But nope, there was still AN HOUR left of the dance. Dammit. "You only have an hour left," I sighed.
The girl finally agreed to dance but ONLY if they stayed away from the boy who called her smelly.
"If he comes near you, I'll punch him in the balls," one of Natalie's friends said.
All the girls giggled.
"That's not kind," I felt obliged to say as the adult even though I wanted to laugh.
I'd like to say I was left alone but no. There was more girl drama.
By the end of the night, I was spent. I had only read maybe three pages of my book. The songs that were played were terrible so my ears were ringing. (Ariana Grande. One Direction. Some weird mash ups of clean rap songs. Puke.)
But then Beat It by Michael Jackson came on, so I got out of my chair and started dancing with myself. Because if you can't dance with yourself, you have problems.
"Mommy!" Natalie snapped, coming up behind me.
I kept jiggling my hips. "Yup?"
"What are you DOING?"
"Dancing!" I wiggled my butt back and forth.
"That's dancing?" Natalie asked, eyebrows raised. Her friends ran over. They giggled.
"This is old people music," one said. "I overhead a teacher say that they had to put it on for the old people."
So I basically spent the night dealing with other people's problems. And I was insulted. But you know, it's okay. My daughter ended up having fun. She even thanked me for taking her.
"And Mommy," she added as I walked out of her room after kissing her goodnight.
"Your dancing wasn't so bad." Natalie gave me a tiny smile.
"I'm glad you think so. Because I plan on chaperoning all your dances in middle and high school. Goodnight!"
And then I left before she could protest.