May (n.): (1) the last full month of school for a lot of dancers; (2) the month of marathon rehearsals and performances; (3) when summer fever starts to set in (if it hasn’t already) and finals are still on the horizon.
This time of year was the most stressful for my daughter. She had projects, homework on top of homework, tests, classes, school club events, rehearsals, and performances. Spring break in March wasn’t nearly enough to rejuvenate her tired brain and I was exhausted from keeping up with her—though I was only her cook, chauffer, personal cheerleader, and backstage volunteer. She was never one to complain or lose sight of her goals, but I could always see the daily grind mentally and physically taking its toll on her spirit.
So what do you say to your child when she’s stressed out, lacking sleep but not motivation—when she wants to perfect everything and she feels like time is not on her side?
You can only do your best...and you need your sleep.
My husband and I constantly reassured our daughter that as long as she did her best, we were proud of her. That’s all we could ask of her.
However, she has always been her own worst critic. Sometimes it took more than the phrase, “You can only do your best.” Our heart-to-hearts to help her de-stress often encouraged her to take everything one step at a time. You can only do one thing at a time, so we advised her to break everything down and focus on one thing at a time as it came. (Yes, that repetitiveness was sadly necessary. She would never hear us unless we reiterated the words.) My husband often told her, “You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.” The utter ridiculousness of that phrase made her smile and put her mind at ease.
We were lucky, my daughter never truly caught summer fever. When I would see her classmates around her lacking motivation and getting more impatient for the end of the school year, I would give her a gentle reminder not to mimic their attitudes—she worked so hard throughout the year and I encouraged her to finish strong.
No matter where your child falls on the spectrum, April through June is a busy season—May often being the busiest month. I promise you both will make it through. Talk daily with your child; ask them questions; remind them they can tackle their to-do list, be their back-up scheduler so nothing slips through the cracks; and when life gets too stressful, a smile and a laugh go a long way. Above all, remember: You can only do your best.