Friday, January 22, 2010

What We Do For Love

By Robin Kaye

Fourteen years ago, I had a beautiful baby girl. (This is a picture of her in her very first tutu) She was a bit of a nightmare baby—she rolled over before she was a day old, screamed non-stop for the first year of her life, and at two weeks old, she managed to crawl the length of a king-size bed and didn’t stop even after she hit the headboard. I remember that day, running into the room, picking up my squealing infant, and telling my best friend, “She’s going to be out of the house by the time she’s fourteen.” Little did I know how right I was.

Today I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I sent my fourteen year-old daughter to live with a host family, enrolled her in their local middle school, gave her a kiss goodbye, and left. It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Well, it does to me too.

Twinkle Toes as I affectionately call her, has been dancing since she was four. At two she told me that she was going to be a ballerina, and hasn’t stopped dancing since. Two years ago she began studying ballet at one of the best pre-professional ballet schools in the country.

It all began with the five-week dance camp. At twelve, she moved into the dorms at the college her dance school is affiliated with, and danced non-stop 8 hours a day. She fell in love with the school and the teachers. In those five weeks, she went from a cute dancer to a ballerina—she blossomed. The change was astounding. When it was over, we knew we couldn’t take her away from her dance school. Unfortunately, it was an hour and a half away from home.

That September, our lives changed. I began home schooling Twinkle Toes and making the drive every afternoon so that she could dance 30 hours a week. While she danced, I’d write at the local Starbucks. The baristas have become like family to me, which is why in my last two books I’ve acknowledged the staff for keeping me in coffee and laughs.

Twinkle Toes and I spent a minimum of 8 hours a day together for the last year and a half. It was hard, but we did what needed to be done. We’d leave after a full day of home schooling at 1:30 in the afternoon and get back home between 10 and 11 at night.

Last summer, she spent the 5-week dance camp with her best dance buddy’s family. She fit in so well with her host family that she didn’t want to come home. Sure she missed us, but it wasn’t as if we never saw her. Her host family loved her, they carted her and her best friend to and from dance, they packed them nutritional lunches, they helped her with her schoolwork and they were the best host parents I could imagine.

On her 14th birthday a month ago, Twinkle Toes sat down with me, put her head on my shoulder, and told me she really wanted to move in with her host family, dance, and go to a real middle school. She missed having teachers, she missed the other kids, and she wanted to dance more. Since last summer, Twinkle Toes has been spending the weekends with her host family and when they saw the traveling was taking it’s toll on all of us, they offered to keep her with them full-time.

After several long, hard talks with my husband, we decided to give it a try. We always knew that next year Anna would start high school away from us, so we adjusted our internal calendars since we knew, no matter how much we disliked the idea of not having Twinkle Toes around us as much as we would like, it would be the best thing for her.

This change gives me the ability to be home with the rest of our family. I’ll be able to see my husband when he’s not snoring, spend more quality time with my other two kids who, I have to say, are the best brother and sister anyone could ask for. They never resented that fact that Twinkle Toes dances or gets the lion share of time and money spent. When we had our family meeting, I was brought to tears when I saw her big brother, a loving sixteen year-old blinking back tears while telling me that he thinks he should go with her to keep an eye on her. Her 12-year-old sister just cried. She and Twinkle Toes have an extraordinarily close relationship. I told her she’d still see her sister on Saturday nights and Sundays and she’ll have me around all the time. It didn’t seem to soften the blow any though.

As for me, I’m trying to look at the positives. I’ll be able to work out on my Wii Fit and actually use the Tread-Desk I wrote about. I’ll make healthy dinners every night and get to sit down and eat it with most of the family and this change will give me the ability to write full-time.

I love what I do, I live to write, but I wasn’t loving the way I was having to do it—in between everything else. Now, I’m scheduling forty hours a week to write. With any luck, I’ll still have time to do normal things like watch a little TV, play games with my kids, and do the one thing I’ve missed almost as much as my family time, read!

So tell me, what was the hardest thing you have done for love?


  1. That was a touching story, Robin. Being a Mom myself I understand how hard it is to let go when they turn 21, my son's age, let alone when they are only 14. You are a great Mother, Mom and friend to all your kids. God will watch over her and keep her safe, you both have done great job so far.

  2. Wow, Robin, how sad and how wonderful at the same time. You have given your daughter such a gift by giving her up. For me, it was my daughter moving out to be at college, my son leaving at the same time to do his AF training, and my mother dying. I was supposed to have unconditional time for my mother now, although before my kids were gone, I spent a lot of time with her doing fun things. *sigh* So now I work full time and write full time (yeah, I know, it's like 100% and 100%...but I do it, somehow!), and squeeze in time with my kids when they can too, and love it! :) Have fun writing full time and enjoying your family now that the pressure is off!

  3. Hey Robin,
    You are doing the right thing for Anna, even though it is difficult today. When she gets where she wants to be she will look back and think about what wonderful parents she had and how they enabled her to follow her dreams. Hang in there!!

  4. Jessica~ Thanks. It's hard to be here today when she's starting school up there. But then it reminds me of her first day at pre-school. She literally jumped out of the van before I it came to a stop. I grabbed her as fast as I could and scolded her for jumping out and walking through a parking lot. "Short people get run over!" Once we got through the gate, she told me I could leave. I explained that I wanted to walk her in and say hi to her teacher. Once we got inside she said "Are you going to leave now?" I kissed her goodbye and walked out. I stopped and looked through the window to see what she was doing and she caught me and motioned me to go. I'm sure she's doing fine, I just wish I was there so she could tell me to leave. It's just easier that way.

    Thanks, Terry~ You do 100% X 2 so well!

    It's going to be an adjustment for all of us, but it's a relief that the decision is made and things are definitely moving forward. My youngest got a chuckle today when she learned that she has a half day today, Monday off and Twinkle Toes will be in school.

  5. Marie~ Thanks for all your help and support. Hugs...Robin :)

  6. Robin, what a touching post. And how talented your daughter must be! I greatly admire parents who help their children optimize their talents, especially when it means sacrifice and sometimes going against the tide. You should be so, so proud of her and of yourself. Thanks for sharing your story and that beautiful photo of your daughter!

  7. Twinkle Toes is gorgeous. Sounds like she is very mature for her age too. She knows what she wants and that she has to focus on that. That means you've taught her well. Letting go is hard, but not has hard as it would have been had you not let her reach for her star. Very inspiring story.

    Starbucks is going to miss you though. :)

  8. There is no way I can equal or top that story, Robin so I won't even try. I will say I'm impressed, I'm inspired, and I'm encouraged by your bravery in all that you have done for TT and your family to watch dreams, hers and yours come true. May God's blessings fall on each of you as you began this new journey.

  9. I've done some hard things, made some sacrifices. I'vet told people they could leave me--and even helped them do it--because I loved them. But I don't think I have ever done anything as hard as this.

    The thing is, your sacrifices didn't start today. You and your family have been donating large portions of the family's resources to Twinkle Toes for years.

    The world is a better place that you and your family have hearts large enough to let Twinkle Toes go.

  10. And just think - when TT dances her first lead in a professional show, her note in the Playbill will be dedicated to you for allowing her to live her dream.

    ((hugs)) from one mom to another.

  11. Robin, you are a great mom.

    I've always found it interesting how often the best thing for the child causes me pain at the time.

    Stay strong mom. These are the wonder years.

  12. Thanx for sharing your story with us, Robin!

    I can't imagine how difficult just reaching the decision must have been for you and Steve, let alone actually letting TT go! But then, I've never had a child with the drive and talent to pursue a career in the arts. TT obviously has a special gift only a very few possess, and you are so courageous to do all you've done to help her pursue it.

    Hang in there, Mom! You made a terrific choice for your very talented kiddo!


  13. Robin--My nest is emptying, too, and it's been a big adjustment. Letting go has been painful.

    Big cyber hugs for doing great things for your daughter. She's on the road to a wonderful life and so are you.


  14. Oh, Robin, how hard for you and your family, but when a child is born with a gift like that, it's impossible to ignore. Stay strong, indeed.

  15. Robin,
    My friend Christine hit the autism; both her younger sons have it. Andrew is classically autistic but he's verbal. Jack, however, has classic autism, ADHD and is non-verbal, which makes for tremendous frustration on everyone's part. Last year, when Jack took off on his bike and disappeared in the maze that is their neighborhood, Christine and her husband decided they had no other choice but to bring Jack to a residential facility for full-time care. She cried for days and days for so many reasons, not the least of which being that she missed her baby boy. As the weeks passed, she saw a few things change. Jack was able to get safe, quality care full time. He thrived under their structure and developed limited speech. The time she used to spend keeping Jack corralled--he was on the roof of the house the day they went to bring him to the healthcare facility--she was now able to spend with Andrew and his older sister, a teenager preparing to leave the nest. She's still mourning to a degree, but Christine realized that even though it hurt to put her son in care she didn't have the energy to provide for him, she was able to redirect that energy not just to the rest of her family but to herself. They all see Jack on weekends, either by going to him or by bringing him home, but their whole family is so much healthier now.

    I look at my 14-yr-old and it brings me to tears, thinking of the day I'll help him pack up to leave home--even though he sometimes aggravates the bleep out of me--but I still have time before we get there. You just had to do it a little earlier than you'd planned. But it sounds like she's happy and in loving, caring hands. Trust that she's going to dance her way back home to you again one day. It might not feel like it right now, but eventually you'll come to know you did the right thing for everyone.


  16. Thanks Libby~

    That photo is probably 4 years old, I love the shadow of one of the older girls against the wall. It showed what she was and what she could be.

    I'm so proud of her. In the ten years she's been dancing, she's never once said she didn't want to go to class. She just started teaching the little ones and knows that someday, after she stops performing, she'll teach. She's got a gift both with dance and with children.

    Mason Canyon~ You're so right. I don't think I could live with myself if I didn't do everything I could to help her achieve her dreams. She's lucky I'm Italian, guilt is one thing I really like to avoid.

    Thanks, Ameilia~ I'm looking forward to 2:30 so I can see how her first day of school went. I miss her something awful!

    Mary Margaret~ Thanks so much. I'm really so proud of my son and daughter and all they've done to support Anna. And you're right about the money and time, they have never once complained about the inequality. They are pretty amazing.

    Judi~ from you mouth to God's ears. I just pray that all her hard work and dedication pays off. She watched Tina LeBlanc (one of the graduates of Twinkle Toes' school and the newly retired Prima Ballerina of the San Francisco Ballet) teach the older girls and Anna took notes. She got to meet Tina and talk to her for a while. She said it was almost as cool as dancing at the Kennedy Center. Almost. LOL

    Sherilyn~ Isn't it amazing how that goes? It was hard to choose what's best for Anna over my wanting to keep her with me. We've gotten even closer than we used to be since we began home schooling and driving together. We spent a minimum of 8 hours a day alone with each other and I miss her something awful. I feel like I left my purse somewhere, I catch myself looking up and expecting to see her at her desk in "our" office.

  17. Thanks Cindy~ I think in the last year Stephen and I realized that without dance, TT would be lost. She doesn't know how to walk, she has always danced from place to place. To her, the world is a stage and she lives simply to perform and now teach. No matter what happens with her dancing career, we're sure that she will always work in the arts. She doesn't know how not to.

    Adele~ I love my kids but I always looked forward to them leaving and moving on to happy productive lives and leaving me more time to spend with my husband. Shows how much I knew!

    Miriam~ It always seems so much harder for us than it does for Anna. She tells me she misses me, but not as much as she would miss dancing and regret not taking every opportunity to move forward. She's a wise one.

    Carla~ What an incredible story. Thanks for sharing it with us. Your friend is amazing. I know we made the right decision for all of us, I'm just not happy with it. Sometimes being a grown up sucks.

  18. What an amazing story, Robin, and what an amazing family. When my oldest son moved out I didn't think I'd survive it. But somehow I managed. I know you will too.

  19. Robin
    What a fantastic story it really must have been hard but it will be so worth it for Anna and as you say you will still be spending time with her and I am sure all the family cope.

    I have never had to do anything that hard for love I know when my youngest decieded she was moving out I was in tears the older 3 had already moved and were making a life of their own with their partners and then giving me wonderful grandchildren but the youngest decided to move away and share a house with friends it nearly killed me but I know she needed to be independent so I was happy for her and in the end she has moved back home LOL. Hubby and I on our own lasted about 6 months but I do love having her back.

    Have Fun

  20. What a beautiful story, Robin. Your daughter is gorgeous. She's a young woman who knows what she wants. You have every right to be proud of her. I admire your sacrifice. My husband and I felt as if we were in mourning for the first two weeks after our son left for college, and he was 18. I can just imagine what you're going through, but you're doing it for love. And your daughter knows that.

    Carolyn/Cara Marsi

  21. I don't know if I could let a 14 year old go away from home. It's hard enough when they're 18.

  22. Kathryn~ Thanks, she's pretty amazing, too bad she doesn't remember to call. I still don't know how her first day of school was. Now I have to wait until after her last dance class to call.

    Helen~ I'm so glad you have your baby back. We all sat down to dinner together tonight and the played a game of electronic monopoly (I hated the credit card thing). I'm sorry, but there is just something about having a pile of money sitting in front of you. We'll see how we do after she leaves Sunday night.

    Carolyn~ I was talking to my husband and he said, well, look at the bright side, we've got one less hormonal teenager in the house. It didn't help much I really miss the eye-roll and the whinny "Mom."

    Estella~ I know what you mean. If it wasn't for her amazing host-parents, I don't think I could either.

  23. You've raised a daughter with a level head on her shoulders. You've shown her by your actions and supporting hers that it's important to follow your dreams. Still seeing her do so and in such a way, has to rip at your heart.

    My son has talked to us frequently about his desire to go to a military academy. The problem is, there aren't any close enough to attend without us moving or him boarding. Even if we were close, he'd still have to board. I'm not sure I'm ready for that. He's my only child. I've investigated a couple of places. It's not yet a driving force with him, but it is becoming more focused. We'll see how this next year goes.

    Hard thing to do? Giving up a foster daughter and son to go back and live with their family when I knew they were better off with me. I keep in touch but even after 4 years it's hard. The first year was horrible.

  24. Hardest thing I did for love was to take care of my parents who were both terminally ill at the same time.
    Since they wanted to stay in their own home as long as possible, and I'm a nurse, we made it happen.

    Mom passed at home with loving family around her.

    Dad was only in the hospice home (a terrific place!) for 4 days before he passed. He had the chance to visit with his old friends both at home and at the hospice before he passed.

    It was stressful, but somehow I found the strength to see it through while making the most of our time together.

    Reading romance novels during that time was a big factor in giving me that strength. A short, healthy escape was all I needed to return to reality renewed.


  25. OMG Robin
    You're breaking my heart. I can't even handle my 20 year old going away on his first trip on a plane with his friends!! You are so brave
    but wise. I'm so impressed with Anna too, knowing how difficult it is, for snuggling up to you & discussing the subject. She has something special & I think later all of you would regret not taking this chance. The strong family bonds are there & you'll all still have that base of strength. ((hugs))