A Gathering Place for Adults Who Love Irish Dance

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

MAID Service: A Mother Joins the Ranks

*This article first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Feis America Magazine

The night before my son’s first feis I readied our costumes, gathered safety pins and first-aid supplies, and printed off the feis syllabus. I sat and taught him what to expect from the few feisanna I had attended.

“Make sure to smile while you are dancing,” I counseled, “And don’t forget to bow to the judge.”

He showed a good mix of confidence and nerves. “I’m pretty good at Irish dance, so maybe I will get a trophy,” he said, then backtracked with, “Probably I won’t get anything.”

I put my arm around him. “I really don’t know if you will place or not, but if you do what we’ve practiced and show everyone how much you love to dance, it will be a fun trip.”

Early the next morning we arrived at the feis. None of my careful planning could have prepared me for what I felt when we walked into the arena. My stomach performed a leap-over as I watched Ethon take in the vast room.

“Now concentrate on just the first dance,” I told him as I pinned on his number and straightened his tie.

Trying not to hover, I wished him luck and walked to the bleachers. Remembering additional motherly advice, I doubled back to the edge of the stage, but Ethon had already struck up a conversation with the boy next to him, unruffled by the impending contest. It appeared that I had enough nerves for the both of us.

Accordion music filled the air. He pointed his toe on count five and took off with a smile. It felt unreal, watching my child compete. My heart slowed to a trot and I rubbed my arms where they had gone numb and tingly.

Leaping and cutting across the floor, he danced with a fluid grace that spoke of his love for Irish dance. He performed every step just as we had practiced it, and then topped his bow off with a smile to the judge.

The silly grin of a proud mother spread across my face. Who would have thought that a person could get so much satisfaction out of someone else’s success?

My son continued through his dances, nailing some and struggling on others. To my relief, he had no trouble keeping track of where to be and what dance to perform.

“I am so proud of you!” I yelled as Ethon came to find me in the bleachers. He grinned and shoved a fist full of medals towards me.

Together we waited for the treble reel placements to be announced. Fourth place, then third took their spots on the podium. Ethon gripped the back of the seat in front of him, repeating the word “please” in a whisper.

Here it comes, I thought. What would I say to him if he didn’t place?

Second place came and went, and my heart sank. Well, there are lessons to be learned in defeat as well as victory, I told myself.

“First place goes to...”

It’s hard to say who was more stunned when my son’s name was read, he or I. He got over the shock first and walked up to the podium, a smile bursting across his face.

In a moment that any “mother addicted to Irish dance” (MAID) can relate to, I realized that the only thing more gratifying than personal victory is watching someone whom you care about succeed.

When it came time to compete in my own dances, my nerves felt like butterflies compared to the gut-wrenching tension of watching my son dance. Although dancing in the adult competition was a delight, the real joy came as I watched my boy clutch his first trophy to his chest, confidence shining in his eyes.


  1. So sweet! My 8 year old daughter competed on her second feiseana a couple of weeks ago. She placed 1st place on two of her dances. I was so proud of he, so happy for her success, that I cried. Congrats to your son! And to you, for passing on your love of Irish dance to him.

  2. Christie, I've always enjoyed your articles but reading this brought the tears to my eyes. Remembering when my kidlet danced his first feis and the judge gave him a "big" medal because even though he danced by himself he danced a great real. That was eight years ago and I still tear up watching both the kidlets dance! They call me a sap but I'm just a MAID myself! mini2z

  3. I know what you mean! My daughters' first feis tore me up inside, especially because one performed better than the other one. But that was mainly because of a silly thing called practice. :) Now they both practice, thankfully.

  4. Congrats~ The first feis is always the best! :)

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