Each year, my lovely little town has an “Old Home Days” celebration that includes a parade, bounce houses, games for the kids, a street dance and fireworks. It may not sound like much, but it’s always a good time and it gives us a sense of community. The kids have fun and the adults eat too much fried food. What could be better? 😉
The “street” dance is held on an outside basketball court near our rec fields where we watch the fireworks. After the games are put away in the evening and we’re waiting for the fireworks to begin, the DJ cranks the music and kids start to dance. My son loves all kinds of music and absolutely LOVES to dance, particularly to the top 40 music we play in the car. He has always enjoyed this part of Old Home Days and has never needed encouragement to get out on the dance floor. But this year, at the ripe old age of 6 1/2, things seemed different. He wandered over to the edge of the floor, holding his monkey hat with two hands and watching some of the tween girls do their group dancing, when the song Gangnam Style began. I was watching him from a distance, waiting, but he didn’t move. I came up to him and whispered, “Are you going to show off your awesome dance moves?” With wide eyes, he vehemently shook his head no. I rubbed his arms and said ok and backed away.
My kid has an entire dance routine for Gangnam Style. It’s not just the dancing from the video, but a bunch of “dance fighting” that he likes so much. It seems to make him feel good and tough and happy. But as he watched the other kids, or rather girls, he seemed paralyzed. He wasn’t moving…at all. Two more songs went by with him just standing like that.
I was heart-broken. I couldn’t believe that he felt so….self-conscious at so young an age. Maybe I did too at that age? I don’t know. I just wanted to hug him and tell him that he can dance and have fun and not worry about other people around him. It was really ok. But I didn’t do anything. I waited. I hoped.
And then…I saw his foot tap. He started to just kick his leg back and forth, but at least he was moving. He started to jump a bit. And then it’s like that little spark within him blew up and he became wildfire! He swung his hat around his body (like dancing with streamers) and jumped and kicked and DANCED! To me he sometimes looked a bit frenetic, but mostly happy and even graceful. He stayed at the edge of the floor, close to the music but far from the other kids. He was in his own little world….and I loved him for it. Every few songs he would come running over to me and ask me if I Iiked his new “moves.” That kid was just bursting with joy. I told him I thought they were wonderful, perfect even! I gave him a hug each time he came back to me, but they never lasted long because he wanted to get back to dancing. At one point, it started to lightly rain and my boy stopped moving, looked to the sky and tipped his head back. He remained still for just a moment, grinned, then went back to dancing. And the really cool thing? A couple more boys actually got out on the floor and did a bit of wild dancing, too. Who knows? Maybe he’ll start a trend.
I’m not sure how long my son will be this way—happy with who he is and knowing how to live in each moment. I hope, hope, hope he always will be. I know there will be a time where he’ll want to be like everyone else. In some ways that’s already started, like wanting the same sneakers his friend had, saying they would make him faster. I told him I wished that were true, but it’s a bunch of bologna. (He did NOT get those sneakers.) He wanted to have cold lunch a few times because his friend did, yet he ended up missing out on hot dog day and was not a happy camper.
So I guess he’s learning, figuring out what he likes and doesn’t like and trying to feel good about his choices. He’s trying to make his way in this freaky world, and I’m trying my best to teach him that it’s ok to be different. It’s not always easy, for sure, but it’s really ok. I worry that he’ll be alone, that he won’t find anyone he can share his differences with. But I can’t control any of that, can I? I can only hope. For now though, he seems to be happy with his life and the people in it and who he’s becoming—I certainly am.
And now if he could only teach me some of those dance moves….