Decisions: ballet or gymnastics?


When I was a little girl, my mother signed me up for a ballet class and a gymnastics class.

In the ballet class, of course, I stood in a row and pointed my toes and twirled and spun. In the gymnastics class, of course, I… well I tried to tumble. I don’t remember very much as this was just on the cusp of the formation of my memory. But I do remember struggling to somersault and pretty much not feeling down with anything else.

At the end of the session, my mom asked me to pick. Ballet or gymnastics. Which did I like better? Of which did I want more?

It was ballet all the way.

There are few decisions that I’ve made in my adult life that I can look back on the way I can look back on that decision to take more ballet. It was undoubtedly and wholeheartedly the right decision. I’m sure it was a gut decision, because that is how little ones think. I probably didn’t second guess myself or wonder if I should give gymnastics another try. I didn’t stress about closing a door on gymnastics and ruining my chances of ever becoming an award-winning gymnast. I chose and I went with it and I never looked back. Ballet is in my blood. It’s there to this day, even if I never lightly lay my fingers on another barre.

I love that my mom gave me the choice. And so, of course, I’m preparing the same choice for my girl.

As we neared the end of another year of ballet, I presented a slightly different decision.

“Do you want to do ballet again next year? Or do you want to try gymnastics instead?”

She chose gymnastics. Hands down. No second guessing. In much the same way that I chose ballet nearly 30 years ago.

ballet twirling

She is so excited that nearly everyone we meet gets the summary of the plan. “I used to take ballet but now I’m done ballet and in the fall, I’m going to take gymnastics.” She often goes on to explain that after gymnastics, she will take yoga. I never offered yoga but she’s added it in and I kinda love that.

Still, I’m having trouble letting go of ballet.

I actually found myself telling my mom that I’m a little worried that if she decides she doesn’t like gymnastics, then I’ll have to try to get her back into ballet and she’ll have missed some time and might be behind.

Those words sounded much less ridiculous in my head than they did swimming out in front of me.

But still, I’m having trouble letting go.

She’s loved ballet so much. She’s learned so much since her first class two years ago. She fell in love with it and she dances about our playroom to any music that might be playing, including the noises that try to pass for music as they come out of her brother’s toys. I see her move and I see dance.

And dance is in my blood. I always imagined that it would be in hers too.

So I’m having to come to terms with the idea that her blood is her own. And I’m having to remind myself that branching out and trying something new is good. It’s more than good, it’s exactly what she should do. It’s what we all should do. This is how we learn and grow. This is how we stay inspired and excited. This is how we live life to its fullest. This is how she will better understand herself and her world and her path.

This is how it should go.

So last week, I put away her ballet shoes for… maybe for the last time. At least the last time for a while. And in the fall, we’ll slide into whatever accessories one needs for gymnastics and we’ll give it a go.

And maybe someday, 30 years from now, she’ll look back on this and smile and find some grounding and simplicity in one of her earliest decisions.


And the Barefoot Books winning comment/winner is….

“Shame on the naysayers. There is no doubt in my mind that my children will achieve things I never would have thought possible. In some ways they each already have. I love Oh, The Places You Will Go and The Little Engine that Could!” ~Michelle

Congratulations, Michelle!


  1. Isn’t it jarring sometimes how the choices that our children make are so different than the ones we made or the ones that we would have made for them? I felt that way 100% when my girl chose cheer. But it was clearly the right path for her. I love how you let your daughter choose. And you’re right. When they’re kids, they choose from their guts, and when we choose from our guts, it’s always the right choice.
    Ilene recently posted..Ordinary WorldMy Profile

  2. How wonderful that you are giving her the choice of her path; it sounds as though she is excited to try something new. 🙂
    I look back on choices I made and see the impact they have had in shaping who I became. The positive discoveries we have in childhood always have a special place in our hearts, don’t they?
    Kim@Co-Pilot Mom recently posted..The Night Before FourMy Profile

    • They absolutely do. I’m trying to remind myself that my gift to her here isn’t that of a love of ballet but the opportunity to discover things on her own. And that is such a much greater gift.

  3. My sisters were both major dancers. I know they always talk about if they have daughters, it will be a no-brainer. With me, it’s harder. I was a bit of a quitter/floater until I settled on things I loved. (luckily it eventually happened) My daughter seems to me and everyone to be such a natural dancer. For her fourth birthday next week, one set of her grandparents has asked if they can pay for her to take a dance class in the fall. I said, “Heck yes!” Now to choose a good one – with her help, of course.
    Tamara recently posted..You Can Be a Winner At The Game of Life.My Profile

  4. {Melinda} Oh, how I would love to make decisions in that way — make the choice, no second-guessing, no looking back! 🙂 My daughter is a Junior in HS and a soccer player. One year, as a little girl (3rd grade), she decided she didn’t want to play soccer anymore. Her athletic father was nearly beside himself when she chose bowling (!) instead! She had a great time, but went back to soccer the next year. Later, in 7th grade, she took an entire year off from doing any sporting activity. And in 8th grade, again, she missed it so much she went back to it and has been going strong ever since. I think you are doing the right thing in letting her explore different options. If her true love is ballet, it will draw her back. 🙂
    Mothering From Scratch recently posted..momtor monday: where to find the source of true joyMy Profile

    • Wouldn’t it be great to always make decisions as children do!?! I feel like every decision I make these days is so wracked with so many shades of grey and what-ifs! And you are right – it it is meant to be, she will be back 🙂

  5. What an inspiring post and a beautiful message Tricia! I love that you give your child the choice, and that you have discovered gifts of long ago that resonate so deeply in how you parent your own daughter. You have encouraged me to do the same… because those pivotal moments in our early days of life are significant and worthy of our attention. And passing them on to our children is a blessing for their lives too.
    Chris Carter recently posted..Devotional Diaires: “Well Done, My Good And Faithful Servant” Mathew 25:21My Profile

    • Thank you, Chris! That decision – and the ability to make so many others as a child – is such a gift and one that has served me so well throughout my life!

  6. My daughter just told me she wants to give up ballet in favor of soccer, which was so shocking because she’s a super girly girl. I almost felt wounded because I danced for years. I even tried to convince her to do both, but she says that she’s done with dance. Oh well, maybe the baby will grow into the ballerina.
    Melissa @ Completely Eclipsed recently posted..Something’s MissingMy Profile

    • It does feel a little like being wounded. Because it is. The small part of us that has a love for a thing feels bad when that thing is rejected. Maybe your baby will do it and maybe your girl will go back!

  7. This is beautiful Tricia. I love that you gave your daughter the choice but it is so hard to let go, isn’t it? I have a hard time sometimes putting behind my hopes/dreams/intentions and truly let my boys decide for themselves. I mean, I really want them to decide for themselves but of course I would prefer if they chose what I wanted them to 🙂
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Scenes from my weekend: a birthday in MilwaukeeMy Profile

    • Thanks, Christine! It is so hard to let go. It’s so hard to remember that she is her own person with her own dreams and interests. Because yes, a sometimes not so small part of me wishes she’d just always do the things I want her to do!

  8. I totally understand this! It is so hard to separate our feelings – the what is best v. what we want – when we give choices. Sometimes the two are the same and sometimes they’re not.

    My girl had to make the same choice. She chose dance during the year and gymnastics in the summer. A cheating of the choice perhaps?

  9. Interesting. I do not give my child the choice of Ballet or Gymnastics. She is little and doesn’t know enough to be able to make a long term choice. Instead she does both. She is tall and so eventually they will kick her out of gymnastics and we will move to more ballet or tennis or basketball or some other sport. But the way I see it allowing her to become a professional dancer is not my concern. As her parent my concern is that she is building the foundation for a love of exercise, a strong body and a healthy lifestyle. In the end she will decide what the focus will be.

  10. Interesting topic this is, both are great activities for our child what will matter I think is the cost of the lesson. Somehow I manage to grasp the idea of on which to decide. Thanks for posting this!

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