I know. My second post here in week. But it has occurred to me that we are, perhaps, too quick to make judgements about a child’s future based on what we see when they are two or three (or younger).
Yes, dear friends, it was finally upon us. The BIG DAY. The DANCE.
It has loomed large in Cheeky’s mind from the very first moment that she understood that being in ballet meant getting up on stage and dancing in a costume.
And so on Wednesday night my flower and my butterfly had their hair scraped into buns and makeup applied to their faces. We kissed the boys and the husband goodbye and off we went to get ready for their moments.
I think I was more nervous than either of them. Not so much for Sassy. She has a natural grace and confidence beyond her years. Though she is only nine, I know she can handle being on stage. I know that if she makes a mistake, she will keep going and still be proud of herself.
But Cheeky is my baby. My little one. My newly emerged butterfly. She wants nothing more than to please me and her teachers. She wanted, I must say, to be perfect. To have us look at her and say, “Oh, Cheeky, we are so proud.”
And so she pranced and practiced in the big room with the dozens of kids milling around. While her little friends sat and complained about being hot and thirsty and BORED, she straightened her costume and checked her hair. Her teacher had asked if she could dance without glasses, and Cheeky was quite verbal in her desire to do so. I wanted to say, “No. The lights are too bright. You MUST have transitional lenses.”
But I looked into her face and knew I had to let her decide.
And so she went…into line with her friends, and I knew that when she rounded the corner, she’d hand her glasses to an older girl, and she’d step out into the spotlight. No glasses. Just Cheeky and the balance she’s learned from ballet and the heart she brings to all she does.
I followed and stood in the wings, watching as she ran on stage. I was not allowed to take pictures there, but I wish I could have. Because she glowed, my little one. This child who was deemed unadoptable, unacceptable, unlovable. This kid who was so delayed at three years old that I probably would have turned and run from her. I wish all of you could have been standing there beside me. I wish you could have seen what I saw.
Because she was not the most graceful dancer or the most coordinated. Her legs were not straight and her toes did not always point. But, oh, how she danced! How she danced! As if those little wings on her back were not just props but real. As if the sheer joy of being loved, of being alive lifted her up and set her free.
And I thought, “Oh, China, how could you have let this one go? How could you have not seen what you were missing out on? The joy, the creativity, the passion.”
And I thought, “What if I had met her when she was three? What if I had been too scared to see the brightness in her orphanage-dull eyes?”
Would I have walked away?
I can’t know, and it haunts me.
But perhaps that is why Cheeky came into my life now. Perhaps I am simply the voice that will shout to the world – Look how far a child can come! Look how beautiful the future can be?
Because I have seen what happens when a severely delayed three-year-old finds love. I have seen what can happen when she is accepted and encouraged and embraced. She doesn’t just thrive, she grows wings.
And then she flies.