Eight little girls dressed like jungle cats take the stage for the after school performance of the Nutcracker. A combo of hip hop, jazz and modern dance numbers set to top 40 hits, the show bears no resemblance to the New York City ballet version.
A chubby little girl in the back row keeps her eyes fixed on the dancer to her right. She is seconds behind in every move. When the dancers move left, she moves right. When they jump, she kicks. When they stop, she twirls. That girl is Savannah.
What should be a proud parent moment has me seething, and I am ashamed that I feel such anger. “It’s a simple dance routine. Am I being overly critical because my daughter doesn’t know the steps?” I wonder. But this isn’t the first time.
I had to pull Savannah from soccer because her inability to focus on the game was sending the competitive Chinese coach into cardiac arrest. His screams of “SaVANa! SaVANa! Kick the ball,” painful at the time, will forever be etched in my personal soundtrack.
Still I persisted. Because of Savannah’s medial condition the after school program initially refused her application. Determined that my child have the same experiences as any other kid, I fought back. Eventually, the director and I came to a truce: she could attend classes provided she have a caretaker on site with her.
The five years since the program, while a Godsend, has also been a source of embarrassment. With each passing year, Savannah’s resistance to following directions at home and school has become more pronounced. She is the kid whom whatever the request – pick up your toys, turn off the TV, put your dishes away – adamantly refuses and does the opposite. For a long time I dismissed her stubbornness as a personality trait. “She’s an only child,” I reasoned. Now, with the recent ADHD diagnosis, I, as the psychologist, suspect more.
From years of therapy I know it’s not necessarily about the soccer ball or Savannah’s inability to memorize steps, but what it represents: another problem. The constant stress of managing a home, fulltime work, and her medical condition, which in and of itself is a full-time job, has left me drained and depleted. For once, I want something to be easy and fall into place. Just once.