The Redster: Six and nearly a half
The Cutester: Three

If you want it done right, do it yourself

Sometime last year the Cutester fell in love with ballet. She began watching a DVD of the Redster’s, all about how to be a little girl in a skirt and pink ballet slippers, and literally every day for at least a month she solemnly copied all the moves all by herself in the sitting room. The costume had to be improvised, usually with some plastic high heels in lieu of ballet shoes, and instead of a leotard she stripped down to her vest, which is a little strappy number, so the same kind of idea. Most important of all was the SKIRT. In ballet, you know, you have to hold up your skirt at the hem while you skip round the room. After the Redster’s white ballet skirt turned grey I banned the use of it for dressing up, so the Cutester had to make do with whatever she had on; but she made up for this by refusing to ever wear anything other than a skirt at any time. In fact there was a stage when she was downright contemptuous of babyfather as he clearly didn’t even own a skirt, never mind wear it, and still less skip round the room holding it correctly.

I’m not a fan of ballet – I tagged along with my friends to several lessons as a child and was totally humiliated by my own lack of co-ordination. I enrolled the Redster last year mainly because a friend of hers was doing it and I decided it would be good exercise – at any sign of her hating it I was going to pull out instantly. She didn’t, so we carried on. The Redster has her lessons upstairs in the church hall and the Cutester is entertained downstairs with an array of sticker books, jigsaws and other bored siblings. The last lesson of term, however, you get to go upstairs and watch the lesson. As the Cutester sat on my lap for the last lesson before Christmas, watching a real ballet lesson actually unfold before her eyes, I knew that our fate was sealed – I was going to have to enrol her for the following term. (Three is the youngest you can start, and she would be, just.)

So the Cutester is now a bona fide ballet student. I have to say, of all the experiences that motherhood has brought me so far, none has been as satisfying as watching the Cutester receive her very own ballet outfit, or seeing her first lesson, which actually nearly had me in tears. To see her do (and wear) something she had wanted and imagined and practised for about three months… the joy! And the tiny satin slippers – and the tiny pink cardigan – *sigh*. (The Redster and her friends find her as cute as I do, fortunately, but then, she is exceptionally cute.)

Tomorrow is Thursday – ballet day. I will go into the Cutester’s room just before 3pm, when she will be in the depths of her afternoon nap. On any other day, I have to cuddle, cajole and bribe her into wakefulness, and however gentle I am, it’s still possible she’ll cry for the whole school run. There are fights over putting clothes on, getting into car seats, and who does the seat belt. But tomorrow is Thursday. I’ll stroke her cheek and say, ‘Cutester! Do you want to get changed for ballet?’ She will then nod and smile sleepily, sit up, and climb into her clothes before she is properly awake, getting gradually more animated, and then be a beacon of radiant joy and good behaviour for the following hour until her lesson.

What a pleasure…