...in dancing school
K&L have been going to a ballet class at the local community center, where "going" = appearing every Monday in case the teacher, who seems to miss class more than not, happens to show up that week. M told me that it's pretty cute (when the teacher *does* come and class happens) because the girls spin around and run around and generally burn off energy in a quasi-organized way.
I've been meaning to go on a Monday, and this last one I made a point of getting into work early so I could be home in time to take them. Organizing for a 30 minute trip like this takes significant effort (something that won't surprise any stay-at-home parent). And to add to this, the weather is windy, with spitting icy rain at times. Which means that L isn't interested in wearing a coat and in fact wants to have short sleeves. (My inclination, especially when it's for a short exposure, is to just let her do what she wants.)
Anyway, we somehow manage to get out of the house and into the van. L has her baby. K has made her last-minute potty stop. I've got a couple of chocolate chip granola bars and water bottles for after class. And I'm strapping them into car seat/booster.
K: Actually, I want my baby.
me (seriously?!?): You want your baby?
K (nodding): Yeah.
me: L isn't taking hers in. She's leaving it in the car.
K: I know. I'll leave mine in the car.
me (sigh): Ok.
Dash back to the house, unlock the front door, navigate around the dog who either doesn't recognize me and thinks I'm an intruder, or doesn't remember the last time she saw me and is so thrilled I'm home again that she can't stop barking and jumping around, and grab K's dolly. I don't even bother to take off my shoes before crossing the living room!
We actually start to drive toward the community center. We're late, but not that late, and M has told me about a parking lot she uses that's close to the building. I drive down California and get into the turn lane, only to realize I can't get to the parking lot from here. My only option is a lot at the high school, not much farther away, but not what I was expecting.
me: Is this where Mama parks?
me: Well, we'll have to park here today. Next time I'll go to that other lot.
K: That's where Mama parks. Over there.
L: Yeah, over thea!
me: I know. But I took the wrong road.
L: You took the wrong woad?
me: Yup. Ok, let's get out. L, you sure you don't want your coat?
L: I don't want it!
me: Ok. Come on girls. You have to hold my hand.
K (buffetted by the wind): Why do we have to hold your hand?
L (immediate goosebumps on her bare arms): Why hold your hand, Dada?
me: Because there are cars leaving the parking lot.
I get them over to the track that M tells me they like to run along. The wind is probably about 10-15 mph but feels like something you'd have to battle to get to the top of Everest. Or Rainier. Oddly, neither one of the girls has any interest in running along the track in this weather. I'll have to check with M about this.
We go into the building and hurry upstairs. I'm already a tiny bit stressed because 1) we're running late, 2) we're going to a dance class, 3) M has warned me to expect K to need to pee before and after class (at a minimum) and that means either taking her to the men's room, or letting her go into the women's room on her own, and neither option is particularly appealing to me, and 4) did I mention this was a dance class, moms and daughters, big guy feeling out of place....
At the top of the steps K announces that she needs to go potty.
me (I can see the open door of the women's room at the end of the short hallway): Ok. We'll wait here.
K: Daddy, can you stand next to the door?
me (moving with her toward the bathroom): Ok.
K: Daddy? Can you close the door?
me (looking at the door - it's got a flip-down door stop holding it open): Ok.
(I flip the stop up and the door closes. My oldest daughter is now on her own in a public restroom. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to add that this is a two-stall restroom, entirely empty except for her, in a back hallway of the community center, unlikely to be used by anyone else in the next 24-48 hours)
L and I wait, L wandering back and forth along the hall, interested in the water fountain, the open Men's room, the stairway, the open door to the dance class room....
K (through the door): Daddy!
me (also through the door): Yes K?
K: I need help!
me (nightmares coming true, pushing the door open slightly while waiting for some just-arriving woman to begin screaming "pervert" behind me): Yeah K?
K (in her closed stall): I need help ripping the paper.
me (!!! - pushing the stall door): You need to unlock the door if you want me to help you.
K (comes and unlocks the door, her tights down around her knees): Daddy?
me (ripping off a length of toilet paper): Yeah?
K: If I need to go to the bathroom again, can I?
me (backing away and out the bathroom): Of course. Are you almost finished?
She finishes up, then needs to wash her hands and isn't sure where the soap is. I end up helping her, now fully committed to a father-daughter experience in a public women's room. And at last we're on our way back toward the dance class.
As we walk in, K remarks that none of the other (3) girls "is the same ones" they've danced with before. "Uh huh," I mutter, pushing the girls ahead of me and wondering which of the women is the teacher.
K (loud whisper): It's not the same teacher!
me (distractedly): No?
K: No Daddy.
me: Well maybe the other one is sick.
We take our stuff to the stage, which is where stuff gets put and where parents sit during the class. And I try to sit down, but the girls are in full-blown "shy mode" and cling to my legs, pressing their faces into my jeans. I take stock of the class. There are 3 women and 3 other girls. Everyone is milling about, no one taking charge. Over the course of several suspiciously confused minutes it becomes clear that none of the women present is, in fact, the teacher. Everyone is wondering where the teacher is. We wait. We mill (or hide our faces). At least once another girl comes over to check K&L out, but they aren't particularly friendly or welcoming. I start to get more stressed, wishing the girls would open up a bit, be friendly, maybe mill about with the others. Then L tells me *she* has to go potty.
K insists that she does as well, though it's been all of... 10? minutes since she last did.
I take them out, and this time we go to the Men's room.
K: Why 'men's room' Daddy?
me: Because I'm not supposed to go into the other bathroom. And L isn't big enough to go by herself.
K: You not supposed to go into the anana bathroom?
me: Well... because... everyone wants privacy. And women don't want men around when they are going to the bathroom. (it sounds somewhat hollow, given our more lackadaisical approach to pottying privacy when in-house, but it's what I can offer in the heat of the moment).
We're all now in the men's room, and this one has a single stall and a urinal. I've closed the door and locked it, just in case. I'm helping L off with her tights and lifting her up onto the toilet, wondering just how clean everything is. K touches and knocks off a toddler seat that was precariously balanced on the handicap rail (me: Don't touch that! Don't. Touch. Anything!!!) , and now L wants to use that. I sit her on it, she pees and finishes up, then it's K's turn and she wants to use the seat as well. And amazingly (to me), she pees significantly, just minutes after the last time. Next, it's hand washing - L wants to do the soap herself, but can't reach it. K wants to get a paper towel herself, but can't reach them.... I'm guessing my blood pressure is up above normal. I finally manage to herd them back out and into the dance room, where someone from the community center is now telling us that she's left messages for the teacher and she's usually punctual and and and....
She pulls out a boombox and the moms/daughters decide to free dance as long as they're here. I encourage the girls to join in, but they won't. The moms/daughters switch to follow-the-leader and again I encourage and the girls resist. I saw that if they're not going to do anything, we should just go home and have a dance party there. No movement. I say again that they should go join the follow-the-leader. K says "not unless you do too." My nightmare. But I get up and join the end of the line, hands under my arms, flapping my elbows like a chicken. I glance over and see the girls standing by the stage. L comes to join me, but wants to hold my hand, which inhibits my flapping ability some. It goes on like this a bit longer before we retire to the stage again. K is sitting there, watching the others with a smile on her face. I can tell she'd like to be a part of it, but she refuses to join in.
And here's the kicker. I get exactly where she's coming from. Sadly, I would be doing the exact same thing that she is, if I wasn't expected to set a better example for my daughters. I would sit and watch until I was certain of my place and certain of acceptance, and only then would I join in. K, I'm afraid you're genetically screwed.
Eventually we do leave the moms/daughters to their antics, and on the way out K needs to go to the bathroom again. L and I wait, but this time I don't bother to close the main door. There's no one else around, and she's got her stall door closed anyway. Once again she needs me to help with the paper, and once again I can't get into the stall because it's locked. After all this (and prayers that L doesn't get it into her head that she needs to go again), we head downstairs where I ask at the front desk about makeup sessions. I say that we don't even know how many sessions are left, given the illness of the teacher and the snowdays and.... The woman there tells me that this is the first day of a new session, that all the earlier missed days are supposed to have been credited back to people.
So, it turns out that we aren't even supposed to be here. It's a class we're not signed up for!
We retreat then, out the door to beat our way against the arctic wind, back toward the parking lot, where I plug the girls back into their seats and get into my own. I pause for a moment before starting the van, and K has something to say:
I don't even want to do dance class, ever again!
(I don't tell her, but I'm feeling much the same.)