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Should she discourage her daughter from trying out for the drill team?

Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Q I have 14-year-old daughter in her first year of high school. Recently she told me she wants to try out for the drill team in the spring. She had some off-and-on dance lessons when she was younger, but she's never been super-coordinated. She takes after me, unfortunately. Anything requiring physical coordination set to music requires her to work twice as hard as everyone else, with mixed results.

Her high school's drill team wins state competitions year after year. We live in a small town and all the dance studios groom their dancers for this team. It is the culmination of years of competitive dancing.

I don't want to discourage her, but I also know my daughter and what her skill level is. But after seeing how much respect and attention athletes and dancers get at school, she doesn't see music, drama, speech, yearbook and cross-country as acceptable areas to pursue, though I know she could excel at all of them.

Do I encourage her and let it run its course? Am I doing her a disservice? Do I support something she wants to do simply for the pursuit of attention and respect of peers?

I guess the real question is, how do I teach her to embrace who she is? — C

A That is the real question, isn't it.

Especially given that, if it's coming from you or anyone else on the outside, versus from her own efforts and sense of self, such teaching can be a part of the problem as often as it promotes a solution.

So I urge you think about this issue in terms of equipping your daughter to figure things out for herself. Where does she need you, and where will other sources suffice to provide what she needs?

No one's volunteering to pay for dance lessons, presumably, so that's your job. If she hasn't requested them already, then ask her whether she wants to resume training to prepare for tryouts. If she balks, then there's your opening to mention that kids train for years for this team. No judgment/encouragement/discouragement, just fact.

Would lessons now be too little, too late? Apparently -- but they will nevertheless get her moving, building confidence and working toward a goal; enable her to self-asses; and allow her to say she did the best she could given the timing of her decision. Assuming you can afford lessons, those inherent benefits can justify the expense.

Here's where your daughter doesn't need a parent: to tell her she's not good enough. That's her instructor's job, or of course the coaches' job when she doesn't make the cut. Trying to pre-empt natural consequences -- or prop up false hopes, for that matter -- brings the storm into the shelter. Again, just equip your daughter to handle ups and downs instead: Show empathy, teach perspective, model a well-rounded life.

Plus, you could be wrong. I don't question your take, but still, you don't choose this team. Coaches do. So it's not your job to cut your daughter before she even tries out.

It is your job to love her for who she is -- the buffer for all disappointments.

When a door is closed to us, that's when we try other doors; other activities will be there for your daughter when she decides she's ready to look.

 

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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