NickJr.com, November 1999
In the Trenches With Bruce Kluger
My Daughter, the
By Bruce Kluger
It all began innocently enough.
Until she was three-and-a-half, my
oldest daughter, Bridgette, had pretty
much firmed up her career choices,
narrowing her selection to five: librarian,
taxi driver, a “person who makes
newspapers but also takes pictures,"
television actress, and, of course,
waitress (or, as she preferred to say,
Then one day all of that changed.
“I want to be a flamenco dancer,” Bridgette announced with the same kind of
conviction with which she frequently insists she’ll marry her “boyfriend” William.
Then, as if to confirm her proclamation with a bit of visual detail, she added: “And I
want to wear a red-and-white dress.”
Okay—so maybe I’m exaggerating here. Maybe there’s a little more background to
It all began the Saturday before, when my wife, Alene, discovered she’d exhausted
her endless repertoire of weekend activities for our gang. An avid peruser of the
New York Times Arts section—specifically the "Family Fare" column—Alene had
determined that we (the two of us, Bridgette and our six-month-old, Audrey) had
been to every puppet show, children’s zoo and kids’ museum in greater New York
City, and, therefore, would have to venture into the realm of grown-up
entertainment—that is, if we wanted to get out of the house today. Throwing caution
to the wind (and along with it, Audrey’s nap schedule), we packed up the family and
headed down to the lower east side of Manhattan, where, as Alene had just read, a
popular local flamenco troupe was performing a special engagement.
“Bridgey will probably love the costumes,” Alene said, “and Audrey can sleep
through the show.”
(At this point, I was tempted to suggest that a lineup of zapateados pounding pine
with hard-rubber heels probably isn’t recommended in What to Expect the First
Year as the perfect nap inducement, but Alene was already halfway out the door.)
To my astonishment—and delight—Bridgette sat through the show rapt, reflecting
in her beaming facial expressions every clap and stamp and hoot and holler the
dancers let loose on stage. And, yep, Audrey did sleep through the entire show
(though she hasn’t slept through one night since, but that’s another story).
Consequently, within a week, becoming a flamenco dancer had warp-sped to the
top of Bridgey’s lifetime to-do list, and from the tone of her voice we knew she
As any parent can tell you, there’s nothing newsmaking about a child sponging up
an entertainment and, afterward, adopting it as her personal passion, spinning off
from it enough daydreams and make-pretend games to last for months on end. But
what was unusual here is that the diversion that caught my daughter’s eye was
such a stretch for her. Blonde, blue-eyed and raised on a steady diet of Gershwin
and Billy Joel, Bridgette is about as close to being a Latin hoofer as I am to being a
New York Jet. Yet completely (and blissfully) oblivious to these limitations, she took
her flamenco dream and ran with it:
She began improvising steps at home, accompanied by Daddy’s Antonio Carlos
She took a crash course in hand movements and “attitude” from her Aunt
Aléjandra (who knows her way around a Spanish dance or two);
She gaped in wonderment when Alé and Uncle Jeffrey brought her back a real
live flamenco dress from their trip to Spain;
And now Bridgette takes weekly dance classes at Ballet Hispanico, which, we
subsequently learned, does not permit flamenco to be taught to children before the
age of eight (something having to do with the strain the movements puts on little
Yet even if she does lose the steam behind her dream before that time, I’ll feel
satisfied that what my little señorita garnered from her brief foray into flamencodom
was worth the trip. It’s been fun for all of us, really.
I suppose the big picture here is this: You never really know what’s going to jazz
your kids until you give it a try. The world is full of wonderment, and parents needn’t
always pop in a video or plop down 75 bucks for an orchestra seat to capture some
of it for their children. In our family, for example, entertainment is defined by a wide
and liberal spectrum of amusements. On one hand, sure, we’ve loaded up on our
required viewings of Mulans and Peter Pans (the latter giving rise to Bridgey’s six-
month obsession will all things fairy-dusty).
But in our better moments, we also try to transform even the small, everyday
household tasks into engaging mini-gigs. Yes, I confess it: we sing the catchy Blue’s
Clues ditty “We just got a letter!” whenever we make the sojourn to the lobby to get
our mail; sure, Bridgette and I regularly dye her scrambled eggs as our own little
home version of Green [and Red and Orange and Purple] Eggs and Ham (that is,
until Bridgette’s tongue turned blue and Mommy informed Daddy that food coloring
is not a toy); and okay, so sometimes we do let Bridgette put on puppet shows—
with Audrey as the puppet.
The way I figure it, the eighteen years I have with my girls will come and go faster
than another episode of Friends, and I’ll be left wondering if I had all the fun there
really was to have. Consequently, I want as much of it as I can get right now, and if
that means occasionally being awakened early on a Sunday morning to the clatter
of castanets barreling down the hall, that’s a price I’ll gladly pay.
I’d like to continue writing here, but Mommy’s making a volcano in the kitchen (Play-
doh, white vinegar and baking soda), and I think I just heard something go boom....