file0002115629451Three weeks later and my palms are still sweating. It was mid-December. The curtain went up. And my daughter went down.

An angel brought to her knees by a too-long hem. Or maybe a slippery floor. Or it could have been due to shaky nerves. The cause doesn’t matter. The effect was the same. The littlest angel had fallen.

I sat in a row filled with moms. We all gasped and leaned in.

Dress rehearsals are designed for this. To get out the kinks. The pre-show stress. The missteps. But this dress rehearsal included the video cameras for the official Nutcracker DVD. This will be the fall that lives in infamy.

The fall that was followed by a stumble.

We all gasped again.

But Eleanor hung on. Literally. I watched as she gathered the front of her floor-length dress and lifted it ever so slightly, holding firmly with both hands to candle and costume. And she smiled, albeit wide-eyed, throughout the rest of the dance. She hit every mark. Didn’t miss a cue. At the end, our row of mothers leaned back. Heaved a collective sigh.

The moment it was over I did not rush to her side. Not because I didn’t want to be there, but because I didn’t know what to say.

Earlier that morning my friend Emily and I were talking about exactly these kinds of moments. Moments where we, as parents, can clearly see the disaster at hand, but have a harder time perceiving the gift it brings.

Each. Step. Down. The. Auditorium. Stairs. I. Wondered.

Then I saw her, surrounded by a host of other angels. All worried. All reassuring. All trying to make the bad thing better. I saw her trembling lower lip and her eyes brimming with barely held tears.

And I knew. I knew what the gift was.

“That was the best I have ever seen you dance!”

“Mom” {amazing how much pain and sarcasm can be expressed in a three letter word} “Weren’t you even watching? I fell.

“Yes. Yes, you did. And it was spectacular.” I recited a play-by-play of the three minutes and 28 seconds of the score from mortifying tumble {full-on face plant, really} to the triumphant end. And I told her how that dancing, that ability to make a mistake and keep your cool and figure out a solution and keep smiling all the way through, that, as Anitra, the mom sitting next to me, said, “that is professional grade.” And it was. And I told her I was more proud of that dancing than if her performance had been flawless. And I meant every word.

And the tears evaporated. And the lips firmed into a genuine smile. And the rest of the day she held her head high and floated wherever she went as if the halo and wings were still in place.

Her fall was a gift that day. To both of us. She learned about her own grit and resiliency. And I was reminded of the wisdom of my host of friends. The women {and men} like Emily and Anitra. Parents whose children are not the same age as mine—from Emily’s young daughters who are part of an audience to Anitra’s daughter who, as a graduating senior, is dancing her last Nutcracker for our studio, these parents help me through. Lift me up from my falls. Help me see past my stumbles. Remind me of my grit and resiliency.

There were many gifts exchanged in the past days and weeks. And there are many in the year ahead. The best with be those that are unexpected. Which will you unwrap? And who will help you? I’d love to hear about each one. Keep me posted.