My approach to parenting is to encourage my children to try new things (within reason), which is why I have become a “sports mom” with a mini-van that is overflowing with various sports equipment and has the permanent odor of sweaty kid’s feet.
Luckily, my kids are also interested in academics, the arts, and video games, so it’s not all about sports with us. I’m sure it’s probably no surprise that I encourage my kids to create stories and we often play the “what if?” game about things we see, or hear, or even think about. Sometimes, the stories are just silly, sometimes they are a little scary, and sometimes the stories are quite good.
Both boys have some creative talents, thus I am a regular customer at Michael’s craft store and have a well stocked collection of paints, chalk, sketch pads and the like. My husband and I were both musicians in our pasts, so there are also a variety of musical instruments in the house that the children are encouraged to play with. And, I’ve been known to show the boys how to make a musical instrument with craft supplies. For example, an empty frozen orange juice can with lid, duct tape, and a collection of small rocks makes a great maraca or rumba shaker. With a love of music comes a love of dance as well, so it is not unusual to find me or my kids dancing around the house when doing chores or playing “Let’s Dance” on the Wii.
What I am not is one of those annoying mothers who believe her special snowflake should do anything he wants to do regardless of ability and everyone else should get with her program to applaud his efforts. Radical concept these days, I know.
So, what happens when these two mindsets collide?
They did last night and this morning I am still wondering if I handled this the right way or if I need to put some more money in the therapy fund. (Their grandparents have the college fund covered. My husband and I are putting aside money for therapy – hopefully, if we’re doing this parenting thing semi-right, the kids won’t need it and can go buy a car for their graduation from college or put a down-payment on a house.)
My youngest informed me he was going to enter the talent show at his elementary school.
“Really? What are you going to do?” I asked, wondering what exactly he was thinking about since our talent shows tend to be all about the kids who have studied dance, martial arts, music, or sing in their church choirs. Nate’s talents aren’t really the sort of ones that translate well to the school talent show stage. One day, he could become a comedian of the Chevy Chase variety, but at 7, he is definitely not ready for Prime Time.
“I’m going to dance.”
That awkward moment when you realize your kid is dead serious and you love him to the moon and back for his absolute lack of fear, and yet, you know that his dance skills – unless something major changes between now and high school – will one day be an excellent means of preventing teen pregnancy.
Seriously, how the kid can be so coordinated on a sports field and such a flailing train wreck on the dance floor is beyond me. It’s adorable in that “only your mom will love this” way and sort of painful to watch all at the same time. No teenage girl is going to want to get anywhere near that no matter how cute he might be when standing still.
“Um, have you actually tried out and gotten accepted?” Thinking this current culture of “there are only winners” has taken things one step too far if my son’s dance skills are considered talent show worthy.
“Not yet, you need to sign the form.” G-r-e-a-t. Enter Mom, the wrecker of dreams unless I want to allow him the experience of public humiliation.
“Well, honey, you know you’ve never taken any dance classes and these sorts of shows are really for the kids who have studied. Is there anything else you can think of that you could do?”
Tossing a baseball, wrestling, or training his dog to do a trick weren’t really activities that would be allowed, so I steered the conversation to some of the other things he could do – like play a tune on his Ukulele or compose a song on the piano. Neither of which interested him because he thought no one would like it. Granted, his Ukulele playing is pretty basic and his compositions on the piano are more Schoenberg-esque than I think his classmates can appreciate. My husband would probably prefer Nate dance than play a piano, but Hubby isn’t a big fan of the expressionist style of composition.
Nate wants to dance, because he loves it and all his friends think he has great dance moves when they are on the playground at recess. He is confident enough in himself that when his friends laugh and encourage him, he interprets it as a positive. I want him to hold onto that confidence for a little while longer so he doesn’t become self-conscious and let fear of being ridiculed hold him back. As I listen to him talk, I am torn. How to tell your kid you don’t believe he dances well enough to enter without forcing reality on him too soon? I go for something less than brutal honesty that I hope will be somewhat supportive.
“Nate, I don’t think you are quite ready to dance for the talent show. Tell you what, why don’t we look into some dance classes this year, then you can sign up next year?” I’m afraid of the next stage of the conversation. The moment when he realizes I honestly don’t think he can dance.
He thought about it for a moment or two. “Could I take magic lessons instead? Or get a magic kit for my birthday? Then I could do magic tricks as the Great Nate next year!”
“You have a deal, but you can still take dance classes if you want.”
“Mommy? You know you’ll need to make me a cape, right?”
Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing (www.secondwindpublishing.com) or Amazon.com.