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Today was an exciting day in my house: Having been offered an unexpected chance to buy some tickets to the sold out RNZB production of The Wizard of Oz, I decided to surprise Esme, who has something of a penchant for the theatrical. 
Dorothy and the Lion
The timing was awkward, Keith having a long standing tattoo appointment, but he somehow managed to convince a friend to come and watch Alfie and Olive so that I could have my moment of mother/ daughter bonding.

It was a sentinel day for me; the moment when I could share my long forgotten passion for dance with my offspring, the moment - I hoped - when I could finally share my memories of days spent as an obnoxious child dancer with the same rose tinted fervour women usually reserve for retelling birth stories.

The day started well, I managed to get the house cleaned without actual bloodshed from the children, and Esme even agreed to wear the outfit I had picked for her; one which managed to be colourful, while also restricting the number of contrasting patterns to single figures. 

We lunched, we left, we parked. 

I eventually tracked down the lady with our tickets before our overpriced ice creams had entirely melted and we followed the other homeschool families up the stairs to take our seats.

After the third flight of stairs, I was a little concerned, but kept smiling, because four year olds can smell disaffection like a shark smells blood.  

By the time the next usher said "all the way to the top" my smile began to falter and I realised that we were, in all seriousness, right at the top of the fucking theatre. The very back row. Any further back, we would have been peering through a skylight and strapping ourselves down in anticipation of a stiff breeze.

Have I ever mentioned that I'm not great with heights?

Esme still had no idea what she was going to see, but she was playing along with my excitement with a level of cynicism rarely achieved by one so young.

She even took the small matter of not being able to see the stage in her stride and cwtched up on my lap, leaning forward far enough for the children in front to feel her breath on their necks, and for me to give myself a mental high five for multi-tasking this parenting win/ ballet watching/ upper body workout like a BOSS.

Thirty minutes later, sweat starting to bead on my brow and all feeling gone in my legs, I looked down as my daughter turned her adoring gaze towards my face. This was it! We were finally on common ground, bonding over a love of dance. Sure it might be hard to juggle dance classes for her, but we would find a way for her to embrace her passion.

"I'm bored"

Don't panic Tash, keep a cool head, she just needs some help understanding the story: She's never seen the film so she might be lost. Leaning forward I started to whisper a kind of subtitling into her ear - heavy on the emoting - to try and pull her back into the action.

She turned back to me and, with pity in her eyes, placed a finger on my lips and repeated "I'm bored, mummy".     

"Are you going to keep telling me your bored for the whole of the second half?" I asked, fixing her with my my most no-nonsense mum face.

"Yes" she replied, staring back at me from under a furrowed brow.

I admire a good threat, so a few minutes later, when the lights came up for intermission, we made our excuses and left.

I spent the walk back to the car sobbing quietly into the depths of my soul, distraught that my moment of connection had been so callously ripped away. Which is to say, it took me the 15 minute walk back to the car (and a little of the drive home) to unpack the fact that today should never have been my moment of connection in the first place.

If I had wanted to see the ballet (which I did) then I should have bought a single ticket. If I had wanted to give Esme a treat, I should have asked her what she wanted to do. I took a punt that she would enjoy the ballet and I was proven very and extremely wrong,

That's on me.

Esme wasn't under any obligation to enjoy the ballet, any more than I'm under any obligation to enjoy yet another episode of Peppa fucking Pig. As ungraciously as that realisation came, I'm glad that she was able to be honest with me and that the whole afternoon didn't turn into a battle of wills to convince her that the best moment of her life was coming along with the next scene change.

Next weekend, Keith is taking her our for some father/ daughter time. Make a note buddy, Esme may not have inherited my love of dance, but she has inherited my hatred of surprises. I wish you luck.


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