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Suburban Island

Ballet for a Season
Wednesday, Jun. 04, 2003, 3:39 p.m.

QUESTION: How do they do that?

WHAT I LEARNED: Nice clothes do not good manners make.

This past weekend I took the kids to the ballet. Last Fall, I had been induced by the upscale sweet-talking phone solicitation of a wonderful ballet company to purchase season tickets for the 2002/3 season. I don’t know why I did it, but somehow as the graceful panorama was described to me – a veritable sea of pirouetting ballerinas, leaping princes, spinning pirates, dancers “flying” via wire above the stage, and of course, the holiday Nutcracker extravaganza complete with snow spilling from the ceiling of the theater - it all began to spin gloriously around in my head, creating a sort of siren song which I could not resist. Oddly entranced by the chance to cram some culture into my kids and indulge myself in a long neglected pleasure at the same time, I found myself pulling out my credit card and signing up for the series.

Actually, the ballet season turned out to be a real treat because if the truth be know, I might think about going to the ballet, talk about going to the ballet, and sincerely mean to go to the ballet - but in the end, the ballet initiative would have gotten lost in the shuffle. Even better, the fact that the tickets cost me more money than I had imagined when my head was clouded by taffeta and pointe shoes was now forgotten. Magically, ever other month we had tickets that were just sitting there – paid for and everything.

All I had to do was:

  • define appropriate dress for going to the ballet and enforce it;
  • bring extra money for the multiple bags of M&Ms and pretzels that are sold for outrageous prices at each intermission;
  • create a workable strategy for leaving the house on time;
  • sit between the kids to increase focus on the performance and decrease sibling interaction – thereby reducing maternal stress and increasing kid ballet appreciation by equal proportions;
  • plan a lovely meal experience pre or post ballet.

As usual, it seemed that I had set a few unrealistic goals. After an entire ballet season I have had to accept that sometimes just getting to the ballet, actually sitting down in your assigned seats before the ballet starts, watching the ballet between intermissions full of M&Ms, Junior Mints, pretzels, and bottled water, and going home again, are really the best that one can expect.

For instance, I had to give and take on the clothing. My daughter got the “dressing for the ballet” thing. My son however thought that dressing up meant wearing his best hooded sweatshirt and jeans – prompting one little boy, suited up in an outfit that Little Lord Fauntleroy would have envied, to point at my son and loudly proclaim to his mother – look, that boy’s not dressed right for the ballet. And what did the nice lady say to Little Lord Fauntleroy? She affirmed that indeed that was not the way that one was to dress to attend the ballet. Perhaps she forgot that her loud statement would carry up the grand staircase as they tromped up the steps behind us. Perhaps she simply forgot her manners when she put on her I’m-attending-the-ballet-this-afternoon garb. My kid might have been in a hooded sweatshirt but hey, it was a good one from Pac Sun and it had cost me a fortune. I was just happy to have successfully dragged a 13-year old boy to the ballet. In the world of high-stakes ballet attendance, I guess that just wasn’t enough. All I will say to her, is this - give Little Lord Fauntleroy a few years and then you try to get him into that getup again for a simple matinee ballet performance. Time is, as every mother knows, a true equalizer. I can wait.

On the other hand, we did do well with the snack purchases, which is something after all. And I was able to plant myself between my kids at each performance, significantly enhancing my peace of mind for at least a few hours. However, it did take us an entire season to successfully arrange our off-to-the-ballet day so that we were able to leave on time AND eat something before the performance as well. I also decided that a hot dog from 7-11 does count as a pre-ballet meal.

Isn’t it odd how when we finally get the whole thing going right, we are usually at the end of whatever it was we finally figured out how to do. Life is like that sometimes.

DETAILS: Coffee: irish cream latte + Listening to: Art Pepper + Observing: a family of very naughty foxes + Thinking: When will the rain stop? + Weather: raindrop falling on and off today

Today’s Suburban Strategy: Mortgages on your mind? You’re not alone.

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