When I’m not rushing in the morning, I’ll stay for circle time at my son's preschool. It usually kicks off with some variation on the “Hello Song”, borrowed from Sid the Science Kid:
I’m looking for my friends; I’m looking for you…hey there’s [student name], show us how you groove.
The student then rises from his floor space to break it down in the middle of the circle—his little moment to shine.
And, with rare exception, all the kids do it. They're uninhibited. They dance with abandon. My son does the robot. They look ridiculous. It’s a beautiful thing.
Then it happens. This particular morning, my son insists that his mom get a turn.
Now I don't dance. Ever. I spent countless hours at bar mitzvahs and school functions sitting on the sidelines. It was my thing. I'm sure it didn't help that I had glasses as big as my face and braces for the better part of my tweens.
When do we start to care what other people think? How do we learn inhibition?
It certainly infiltrates our parenting. Ugh, the self-doubt. Am I doing, saying, buying, feeding them the right thing? Do I yell at my kids too much? Do I set proper limits? Do I play with them enough? Do they get too much screen time?
Some days, it just works. I say what I mean. They listen. I pack healthy snacks for the playground. I read books instead of submit to the Sprout channel. There are veggies and laughter at dinner and baths before bed.
And then there are the other days.
Sometimes (I’m embarrassed to admit) I’ll even catch myself “parenting publicly.” When I’m trying to say the perfect thing, in the perfect way, to get my child to act like an angel—not because I’m being true to how I parent, or my relationship with my son, but just because I know other parents are watching.
We all do it differently. We work or we stay at home. We write about our kids or we leave them out of it. We sleep-train or we co-sleep. We breastfeed or we bottle feed (or both). We hire nannies or choose day care. We prefer public school or private school or we home-school. We comfort and we yell. We judge and we envy.
We tuck them into bed at night, and then we wake up the next day and do it all over again.
And we question.
The thing about preschoolers is they're not dancing for anyone else. They're not worried about what their classmates think. They’re not worried about anything. They can just be—themselves.
They were making their way around the circle. Seventeen kids had showcased their moves. I was up. There was only one thing to do. Dance. It wasn't pretty. But no one cared. Mid-performance, I reached down to give my son a high-five. He looked genuinely proud. Proud to have a dancing fool for a mama. They all cheered me on. It felt great.
I will try to be better about letting go. To feel more than think. To love more than lecture. To pay attention to these children in front of me instead of the others all around me. To parent from within. To stop worrying so much and just…dance.
Because I want to teach my kids to live out loud. To not be afraid. To live for themselves.
To always dance like they're in preschool.
And they should see their mother doing the same.