My 3-year-old is an amazing, bright, articulate little girl. She’s one of those old souls, carrying on conversations with the grocery store clerk, the UPS guy, and anyone who takes a moment to say, “Oh, your daughters are so cute!” So last Christmas when she sweetly asked for exactly three things, we joined forces with her grandparents to make sure she got them: a bike (Frozen-themed, of course), ear piercings, and ballet classes.
The first month of ballet was wonderful. She loved slithering in to her leotard, twirling in her tutu, and showing anyone and everyone her pirouettes and pliés and grand jetés. She loved her teacher and her new friends.
The second month was rough. At first she didn’t want to go to ballet, excitedly dressing up only to fall apart as we got to the door of the dance room. We did that a time or two, then spent the next couple of weeks ill and unable to attend.
March was a fresh start. We talked a lot about ballet class before we left the house, getting excited about dancing again and reminding her that she needed to stay in her class with her teacher and Mommy would be back as soon as her class was over. We talked about how Nana pays for her class, and if she can’t focus and attend her class, then we would stop coming. And it worked! Her first day back was flawless.
But the following week was a different story. I dropped her off quickly and headed to the store to grab her a water bottle. She was just fine when I left, but when I returned, she was screaming and sobbing.
“I just want you,” she said with fat tears rolling down her face. I held her for a moment and then we moved outside as the rest of the class carried on. We sat on a bench together and I asked her how she was feeling and what she wanted to do. She said, “I just want you, I want to go home.” I tried to encourage her to stay, to remind her of our agreement that if we left now, we wouldn’t come back anymore; we would be done with ballet for awhile. She quietly said, “Okay, I want to go home.”
The Mama in me wanted to keep pushing, to get her to see how much fun she would have in her ballet class with her friends.
The Doula in me said, “Okay, let’s go home.”
A huge part of being a doula is honoring a person’s ability to make their own choices. My experience and training as a doula has lent this skill to others areas in my life, like motherhood. Doulas recognize that they don’t know best; our job is to respect a person’s autonomy to make their own choices, and then we support that choice. This sense of autonomy is what is empowering to our clients (and our children!), the knowledge that they have all the information they need to make their choice and that they’ll be supported without judgment.
As a mother, there wasn’t anything I could have said or done to make her stay. She had already made her choice, and this was a great teaching moment in following through with your decisions.
As a doula, this was another opportunity to exercise the art of nonjudgmental support, to look at the situation from another’s perspective and support her wholeheartedly.
If you have any questions about doula support, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to hear from you!