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?