3 Things I Will Teach My Middle School Daughter
Updated: Jan 16
"Control the things you can control."
Dance is a topic that comes up in many of my posts because of how prevalent it is and has been throughout my life. My roles in the dance world have evolved as my life has evolved and as I was transitioning from student/dancer, to coach, to judging official, I was also transitioning from child/teen/young adult, to wife/working woman, to new mother. The past year has been a pivotal year for me as I have found myself doing a lot of soul-searching and really discovering my purpose.
Last winter during competitive dance season, I had started reconsidering the possibility of coaching a team again and my head was constantly spinning thinking about how I could even make that work. After many sleepless nights, I ultimately ruled out the possibility of coaching at that point and moved forward. Over the summer, as I was renewing my official’s license and my judging membership for the upcoming dance season, I spent a lot of time thinking about my current and future role in the dance world. As I spent that time reflecting, I ultimately decided to also take the upcoming season off from judging so that I could focus on spending time with my family and really figuring out what my next steps in life might be.
As I was gracefully sauntering throughout life for what felt like the first time ever, I knew I had finally found the perfect life balance. As I found more availability in my schedule, I spent more time soul-searching to think about what I’m really “meant to do” in life. Every time I would read something inspiring or listen to a podcast about “finding your passion in life,” I couldn’t help but catch my thoughts drifting back to coaching. Coaching dance is the only thing in my life that I’ve felt completely comfortable and confident in doing. It is the one thing that comes as natural to me as putting one foot in front of the other. I knew that someday, maybe even years from now, whenever the timing was right, coaching would become a part of my life again.
So, as it goes, as I was living life in my blissful haze of balance, I received a call out of the blue in the beginning of November notifying me that a middle school team had recently found themselves without a coach just a month prior to their first competition. They had no one experienced or certified on-hand to step in and were desperately needing someone immediately so that they could continue their season. As terrifying as it was, my best friend and I had extensive experience coaching and agreed together that we would figure it out and step in so that these girls could continue their season.
I had no idea going into this how it would work or what it would look like because: (1) I now have a toddler and have never had to balance work/life/coaching and motherhood all at the same time, (2) this team was already in the middle of their season and had been practicing together since June, which meant I didn’t know any of them personally or what their work ethic was like, and (3) they were middle school girls age 12-14 who don’t have the same maturity, body awareness, or memory retention as high school and college girls. It was a matter of about five minutes in the gym with them on my first day as I found my passion and creativity reignited again. My expectations for them are no lower just because of their age, and they are constantly surprising me. After a few short weeks, this group of kids has had a lot of challenges thrown at them and they’ve worked hard and set big goals as a team.
What I’ve learned the most from this team so far is that middle school kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. This particular team is 6-time consecutive reigning State Champions, and the goals that they recently set as a team for themselves for this season (without any adult prompting) had nothing to do with winning trophies or acceptance from others. Instead, their goals were all centered around having good attitudes, not worrying about what others think, and focusing only on what they could control themselves. You guys… How applicable is this to real, adult life?!
I started thinking about my years as a middle school girl (*shudder*), and those were particularly the hardest years of my life for so many reasons. (This is likely a good reason why I was terrified at the thought of working with a group of girls this age.) I thought about the things that I would want to instill in these kids as well as the things I will want to teach my daughter when she reaches this difficult age.
Here are 3 things I will teach my middle school daughter someday (as well as these temporary “dance daughters”):
1. Only focus your energy on things that you can personally control. You cannot control what others do, say, or think, and this will hold true for the rest of your life. Choose to be kind and have a positive attitude. You choose how you spend your time and how you surround yourself, so choose to surround yourself with positivity and people who make you feel good. For the rest of your life, there will ALWAYS be “haters” who don’t like you, who say nasty things about you, and who will question and criticize every single thing you do no matter what you do. That is none of your business. Remove yourself from the conversation if it doesn’t lift you up, and place yourself in a conversation that does.
2. Take care of your body. You only get one physical body, and there is critical growth taking place in your body right now. Making poor choices when it comes to how you care for your body now can have so many serious effects on your body and your health in the future. Do not be tempted to try things that could seriously harm your body just to “fit in” with people who ultimately do not care about you and won't be around for the long-haul. Do not worry about being “fat” or “thin.” Make good choices when it comes to what you consume regularly, and find ways to get physical activity every single day – whether that be through a sport, a game you like to play, or simply a walk outside or around the mall. When you make good choices, your body will be exactly the way it’s supposed to be.
3. You are loved.
You are loved by so many people! Think about your family and your true friends who mean the most to you and are there for you when you need someone. Those are the people you need to surround yourself with each day. Stop trying to impress others by being someone you’re not, because if you don’t learn this now, you will spend your entire life trying to impress people and trying to fit in with people and you will always end up falling short. You were not made to fit in, you were made to stand out. Be kind, follow your heart, and do not do or say things that don’t feel true to who you are.
As much as the thought of someday being a mother to a middle school girl terrifies me… so far, in my brief experience working with this group of middle school dancers, I know that I’ve got a lot to teach and a whole lot more to learn.