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Carolyn Hax: Dance mom keeps crashing the locker room after class

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)
3 min

Dear Carolyn: My 16-year-old daughter is a student at a large dance studio. One of the mothers routinely goes into the locker room after class to hang out while her daughter changes. According to my daughter, this mother’s presence is a serious problem among the other dancers. However, the daughter of the intrusive mother seems oblivious to the issue.

I have a new relationship with this mother. We’re not friends yet, but we are friendly. I like her a lot and would like the relationship to develop. My daughter wants me to tell her that she needs to give the dancers privacy and space, but I’m not sure how to broach the topic without ruining the possibility of a friendship. Any advice?

— Anonymous

Anonymous: I am sure you are both well-meaning people, but I am so very not worried about you and your budding new friendship. It is the very least of my worries.

Worry No. 1: the young dancers who are undressed and uncomfortable in their locker room.

Worry No. 2: that none of them feels empowered to do something about it personally.

For children, yes, asking a parent for help is an important step on the developmental ladder to self-advocacy. But 16 is when a lot of kids spend a lot of time without an adult present. It’s appropriate and necessary for all of them to start venturing forward as self-advocates, if they haven’t started already.

Granted, this is a charged and awkward situation even for an adult to manage. But we don’t always get to choose the size of our problems, so your job as a parent is not to talk to the offending mom on these girls’ behalf, but instead to guide, encourage and support your daughter toward addressing the problem herself. (And to be ready to take over if necessary.)

It helps that it’s an institutional setting, because it offers a mom/dad alternative in the form of the studio’s management — which is like training wheels for kids learning to speak up. They can ask management to step in on their behalf, and you can offer to be there while they do.

That is, if your daughter balks at talking to the mom directly; if she’s ready for that, then power to her.

I can’t know whether management will agree to put a stop to such locker-room mingling, but it feels like a safe assumption, given any program’s interest in not having news trucks and lawyers outside. The added benefit is that it protects this mom’s daughter from being singled out. She doesn’t need any more of that attention than she already has.

Worry No. 3: that you’re worried about your budding new friendship. More so than you’re worried about the young dancers, your own child included, who are feeling creeped out?

Worry No. 4: Where’s your creep meter? Is it working? It apparently doesn’t strike you as odd, and friendship-urge-dampening, that a grown woman is oblivious enough to blow through all the boundaries, yellow lights and caution tape across that locker-room door.

So help your daughter put a stop to it, first thing. Then have yourself a good think as to whether it’s possible to be both emotionally healthy and as intense a hoverer as this mom appears to be.