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I have an almost 14 year old competitive dancer who has ADHD herself, and I feel your pain. I’ve never been tested, but I have always suspected that I have some low level form of ADHD myself. My kids are adopted so there isn’t a genetic connection in our case though I know ADHD runs in families.
I am in my 11th year of dance with almost that many years of competitive dance. We do 3 or 4 competitions per year and travel every other year.
My daughter loves it. I find it to be terribly stressful. Dance competitions are naturally a place where people are not going to be at their best. You have a lot of people crammed into small spaces with a lot of adolescent girls, stress of being somewhere you are not regularly at, time crunches, endless details, hair, make-up, changing decisions, and of course, competition outcomes. It all requires flexibility of you at a time when flexible is the last thing you are in the mood to be. It’s a recipe for a mess.
A few things I have learned to do over the years have made a big difference in my ability to cope with it.
Get organized with your info as soon as it comes out –
This is not a natural thing for me. I am not visibly organized by nature. And, dealing with the extraordinary amount of details needed for dance is exhausting for me, but I know that I have to be on top of things right away or it will get away from me. One thing that really helped me was making spreadsheets as soon as our studio sends information to us. We have a very organized studio owner which helps with this, but I still have to be on top of things too. This means I have a running list for each dance each year that includes: costume, song, dance genre (jazz, hip hop, lyrical, etc), hair style (ponytail, low bun, high bun, side bun, wig, etc), accessories (clips in hair, feathers, hats, etc), jewelry, shoes, tights, special makeup, fake eyelashes, etc. It sounds like you have tried this with your black binder. Keep it up. You won’t be sorry.
Get the right equipment to make this manageable –
I caved in a few years ago and bought a Dream Duffel. It was life changing. You can buy new or off of Ebay. They are expensive, but they really help, particularly the accessories. For me, the peace of mind this has brought was worth a ton to me. If you do nothing else, get the clear plastic garment bags that have a slot for you to insert a card with all of the details for each costume. And, get two plastic boxes that look like cheap fishing tackle containers. You can buy them from the Dream Duffel people or at Walmart. It doesn’t matter that much. One is for hair supplies and the other is for jewelry. Doing these simple things really reduced my stress level and helped me keep track of everything much better. Before the clear garment bags, I was a wreck and always losing track of her stuff.
Once a dance is done at a competition, clean up immediately –
There are people who can leave everything in a pile until the end of the event. For me, this is asking for trouble. My daughter is extremely scattered. If I don’t locate her stuff right away after she takes it off, it will be lost. It will be in someone else’s dressing area, on the floor, randomly discarded on the walk back to the changing area, you name it. I have a fighting chance if I put it all away just as soon as the dance is over while I still remember what we started with. If I don’t, I’m in a world of hurt. There is a caveat to this advice. Sometimes, the costume changes are too fast and chaotic to allow me time to put everything away immediately because I have to focus on getting her ready for the next dance. When that happens, a pop-up laundry hamper works well to contain the chaos. Have her dump everything in there so you can put it away as soon as she’s dressed and ready to go for her next dance. These collapse into a flat package for easy storage when you are done.
Make staying in touch manageable –
At the start of the season, see if you can get the cell numbers of the moms on the team. That way you have a way to contact someone when you have a problem. And, problems are likely with dance. It’s the nature of the beast. I don’t have good friends among the other dance moms, but I have found a couple who sympathize with my struggles and have helped me out.
Plan for stuff to not go smoothly –
I start by over-packing. We have duplicates of many of our items. I also keep spare tights, extra hair supplies – especially hairnets, and a spare set of clothes –
a pair of black dance shorts, a pair of black leggings, the dance studio jacket, sports bra, and studio t-shirt in our supplies. I have a standard set of stuff that I doubt I will ever need, but we have it just in case – like extra hair binders, hair brush, spray bottle of water, bobby pins, band-aids, small sewing kit, flat iron, and every email/handout from the studio I have received throughout the season along with a copy of my own spreadsheet.
I also do a preemptive strike with my daughter about getting along before we get to the heat of the moment. On our way to the event, while everyone is still calm, we always talk about how we want to do our best to be nice to each other and get along. We want this to be fun, and we want to enjoy each other and the competition. We talk about how we are going to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of the day. This makes a difference in how things roll later too. It’s not foolproof. We still fight, but it’s better than if we didn’t try to lay this out beforehand.
I hope at least some of this is useful. As a fellow dance mom, I wish you the best.