Oops I did it again. I ignored my complete inability to dance and attended a Zumba class. If poor dancers are said to have two left feet, perhaps I have three.
The first time I attended a dance exercise class I came home and showed my “routine” to Ryley Tate, my second-born son who is a lover of music and art. I thought that he would get a kick out of my moves, but I was mistaken. His cheerfully expectant grin was quickly replaced by a look that was a mixture of pity and apologetic disgust. “Mom, mom, mom!” he had interrupted me, holding his hand out at me like a crossing guard instructing a car to halt- snapping me from my carefree recital straight back to reality. “You need to stop,” he continued. “I’m sorry mom, but that’s just really terrible.”
I had laughed and embraced him, then turned to my mirror to see for myself what was so terrible. Oh yeah. It was that bad.
That was more than a year ago, yet at the gym today, while heading to my post on the treadmill, a class in progress snagged my attention. The music was pumping; I could feel it pulsing through my veins and I was compelled towards it. The alarms were sounding loudly in my head: “Don’t do it!” Despite the collection of unpleasant dancing images that are buried in my subconscious, I entered the gymnasium…
My earliest memory of dancing gone awry is of me at age 11. My mom was signing me up for some after-school activities and I had begged to take dance and creative writing. I remember how she tried sweetly and subtly to talk me out of the dance class, but I had persisted (as I often did) and found myself to be the victim of critical glances from all of the other (more coordinated) girls in the class. After a couple of weeks with no improvement in skill, my mom mercifully pulled me out. I finished out the term in the comfort of the creative writing class, trying to shake the memories etched in my mind of my spastic reflection in the dance class’ floor-to-ceiling mirrors.
I could offer up additional horror dance tales (trust me, I’ve got some good ones), but my pride prevents me. Anyway, despite the fact that I was laughed at today during Zumba class (by a woman who graciously took the time to give me an encouraging pat on the back), I found myself scanning the group exercise calendar to see when the next dance class was scheduled.
So exactly why would I willingly subject myself to such humiliation? The answer is simple: because I love to dance.
I guess that I feel somewhat resistant to spending my life only pursuing things in which I possess natural-born talent. After all, dancing is far from the only activity for which I have love, but lack ability. Let’s see, there is fishing (rarely catch a thing), playing football with my oldest son (I miss half his passes), cooking (I’m getting better every day!!), singing (not too bad until I exit my two-note range)… you get the idea. So, should I miss out on all of these pastimes just because my proficiency in these areas is under-developed?
Recently, I watched my boys play at the park with an eclectic group of children that they had befriended there that day. As they played, I thought about how thankful I was that most young children do not select their activities with playmates based off of their strengths. A slow runner invited to play tag? No problem. A slightly clumsy child challenged to a race across the monkey bars? Not an issue. So at what point in life do we want our kids to opt out of all the games at which they might lose? At what point do we want them to stop trying new things because they become aware that they might fail?
Never. We want our children to grow up and confidently strive for great things, and in between accomplishing those great things, don’t we want them to be self-assured enough to have fun in the simple moments- like singing karaoke or dancing at weddings? Don’t we want them to courageously try new things even as the decades pass and they start to feel too old to learn new skills that they didn’t master in their primary years? So I pose the question: if we never let our kids see us do things that we aren’t good at, what lessons are we teaching them?
So go ahead, let your guard down. Try new things and let your kids see you. One day they might just be inspired by memories of their mom learning to play piano at age 30, their dad going back to school for a career change at age 45 or their grandmother taking up photography at age 60.
In the meantime, I will strike a compromise when it comes to my dancing. After accidentally embarrassing my oldest son Todd by doing the Cupid Shuffle at his Back-to-School-Bash one fall, I will refrain whenever possible from publicly dancing in front of their peers. Everything else is fair game- and I’m hoping that one day they might relish their memories of me cranking up the tunes and dancing around with them in our living room. In fact, judging by the smiles plastered on their faces during our family’s Just Dance competitions, I’m thinking that they don’t really mind at all that mama can’t dance.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,