My teenage daughters teach a preschool dance class, and one night not too long ago, they had a very unhappy client. 

The poor thing was crying and screaming and was generally miserable. She did not want to be there . . . not that night and not ever.

Oh, I remember those days.

My own oldest dancer was a very unhappy beginning ballerina at one point . . . so unhappy that we pulled her out of class without even finishing the month we’d paid for. (Yes, I know you’re not supposed to do that.)

Five years after she hung up her barely-used ballet slippers though, she sat in an auditorium and watched in fascination as her younger sister tapped and turned all over the stage in an electric blue tutu. I looked at my firstborn’s face in the audience and thought, “Well, she’ll be dancing now.” The curtain had barely closed when she turned to me and said, “I. Want. That.” Neither of them has stopped dancing since.

But they might have. They both started and stopped gymnastics. My older daughter started and stopped choir and cross county. My younger daughter started and stopped piano (sob) and track. It was OK. It would also have been OK if they’d never tried those things in the first place. 

Oh, mama, I know the pressure to start your kids in ballet and judo and gymnastics and violin and t-ball and theatre and anything else they might love and be good at and one day earn a college scholarship for (please, God, hear our prayer) is huge. You want them to have opportunities. You want them to explore and make friends and find things that drive their hearts and minds. You want the best for them . . . and you know sometimes, finding that best takes trial and error. 

So go ahead, give it a try, if it seems wise and works with the rest of your family’s life. Sign them up for tiny tots dance or swimming lessons or pottery class or cooking school. 

But if your little dancer or swimmer or potter or chef hates it or it doesn’t work or everyone is miserable, it’s OK to pull them out. It’s OK to wait a year or two or ten. It’s OK not to try it at all. 

Over the years, my daughters never did end up doing school clubs or competitive dance or travel sports. They never did summer camp or church youth group. There is nothing wrong with any of these, of course. And there is so much right about them for lots of kids. They just weren’t right for my particular children or for our particular family. 

Still, both my children have passions they are dedicated to. They are both happy and hopeful about the future. They both have interests and things that inspire and move them and bring out pieces of their souls that nothing else does. What they didn’t do cleared the way for what they did do.

If you pull your kids out of something that isn’t working or never put them in it in the first place, you are not giving up. You are not being lazy. You are not stunting your child’s physical, emotional, and social development. You are not teaching them that it’s OK to quit. You are just making the best choice for your child in a certain season under a certain set of circumstances that only you know.

Most of all, you are not denying your children their future happiness. You are preserving their present happiness. 

They will dance their own steps when the time is right.

Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two teenage daughters who regularly dispense love, affection, and brutally honest fashion advice. She writes about faith, food, and family (with some occasional funny thrown in) at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by spending time on Facebook and Twitter.