By Carly Rae
My eldest girl Eva was bursting with excitement to do toddler ballet lessons for the first time. I had held out for a while due to the cost and commitment and only caved once I was convinced, she really wanted to do it. I also made her aware that this was an extra special activity so she wouldn't take it for granted.
When I arrived all the mothers were sitting in a row on plastic, green school chairs outside the hall. They were wearing the same obligatory attire as me and had similar baggage (babies, bags and prams). All the mums were chatting amongst themselves except one woman, who sat silently on the end of the row. Unlike the rest of us, she was immaculately dressed. She seemed a bit awkward and uncomfortable. Assuming that she was a new mum to ballet, I decided to introduce myself to make her feel more comfortable.
I dropped all my bags on the floor and sat down next to her with my second child Lucy on my lap who was crying and in need of a feed.
“Hi, I'm Carly,” I said to the woman with a smile.
“I'm Bridget,” she replied demurely.
I looked over at Eva who was excitedly warming up with the other little ballerinas.
“My daughter has been so pumped about doing this,” I said.
“Yes, my daughter too. I let my kids choose any activities they want to,” said Bridget.
“That must get expensive.”
“We make do.”
“Does she enjoy the ballet classes?” I curiously asked.
“This is the first one I've been able to attend.”
“Really?” I said undoing my top so I could feed my baby, Lucy.
“We work in the city, so we haven't got a lot of time on our hands.”
"How do you manage to get your kids to all their practices when you are so busy working?"
"We have a full-time nanny," she proudly announced. "She is amazing! She gets the children up in the morning, brings them to school, then to all their activities and finally puts them to bed at night. We are so lucky to have her because some days, neither my husband nor I even get to see the children!"
"It's a shame that you miss out on watching your kids participate in their activities," I replied, hoping not to offend.
“That's the price you pay if you want ocean views,” she said with a condescending chuckle.
Her comment really stuck with me. I remember as a child I had everything I needed, but there was a lack of material items, like expensive toys or piano lessons. However, the memories that are etched in my mind are of wonderful times I shared with my family. I fondly recall reading stories with my grandfather, singing songs on the piano with my grandmother, throwing pennies in fountains with my mum and canoe rides down the river with my dad. Furthermore, I cannot recall any particular gift I received for Christmas or birthdays when I was very young. My parents worked very hard to provide for me, but most importantly they gave me plenty of love and attention. I never felt like I was missing out, although now in the 21st century it seems like having all the material items at a child's disposal is considered an essential ingredient to their personal happiness.
When the lesson finished, I walked home with my two girls like I was walking on air. I felt like the luckiest woman alive. My feelings were reinforced that afternoon as I watched my husband and my two-year-old daughter smiling and laughing together. She was learning to ride her tricycle and her Dad was guiding her around the garbage bins, encouraging her with every push of the peddle. Eva's big blue eyes were beaming with pride as she rode her little, garage sale bike that I bought for only five dollars. She didn't seem to care that the paint had been chipped off the handlebars and the basket was hanging off the front by a thread. Don't get me wrong I am not saying everyone should shop at garage sales or that having ocean views is a bad thing to desire, but we also must not lose sight that the most valuable gift that we can give our children is time.