Dance Together, Stay Together
By Tara Zoumer (A Nanny Placed by The Nanny Authority)
With unbridled energy, Jenny bursts into the room, does three twirls, pops a hair flip, and finishes with big jazz hands and full-toothed smile. This 30-second kitchen performance is not a special occasion but simply a regular occurrence for the budding theatrical 9 year old. The first time I met Jenny, I couldn’t help but smile, admire her shameless expression, and ask myself, when did we all stop dancing our way through life? Why don’t I flip my hair and sashay down the sidewalk anymore?
After meeting Jenny, and questioning my life choices, I made a simple decision: try to understand the world from her perspective, and more importantly remember what life was like before adulthood had limited my dance experiences to a few weddings and birthday nights a year. I never realized the impact our dance adventures would have on the whole family.
On a sunny Saturday when the rest of the family was having screen time I asked, “Hey Jenny, want to teach me some of your moves in the backyard?”
Her eyes lit up with surprise and excitement.
“Of course,” she said, “but you HAVE to listen to me. I’ve been taking dance my whole life, so I’m very good.”
“Yes, teacher Jenny,” I replied with respect. I was surprised how nervous and embarrassed I felt when she started counting,
“One, two, three, four, left, right, left, you got it?”
I looked like a startled deer and reluctantly replied, “Wow, that was a bit fast, can you please show me again, but way slower?”
She nodded yes but with clear face of every teacher’s frustration when the student isn’t getting the lesson.
After twenty minutes, teacher Jenny had been amazed by my lack of coordination, and called my dancing duck-like. I deeply questioned my basic motor skills and my rational as to why I thought this was a good idea.
Nonetheless, I told her thank you and that I looked forward to our next class. Over the next few months we took to spending any free time we could find on the back lawn. My older body was becoming sore in new places so we also stopped to stretch together, which we agreed is the best exercise for any human.
One day we shared a hard moment when I missed my cue and she yelled at me a bit too harshly. I was ready to quit right then and there, and she could see it on my face. Naturally, she became concerned she really hurt my feelings and truthfully, she did. Calmly, I told her how it felt when she talked to me negatively. She hadn’t realized her tone was so harsh and we both agreed that speaking to a student with love was a much better choice. Our conclusion: we all make mistakes when we are learning, so it’s better to laugh than yell.
After that day, she learned there’s a better way to be motivational and I learned the value of letting kids see you struggle and get your feelings hurt. It gives everyone an opportunity to improve. From that day forward, Jenny opened up more emotionally and we began to build a relationship based on mutual support of one another’s silliness and fearlessness. It’s easier to talk about anything now and if we get frustrated we know we can always dance it out.
Jenny’s dad started playing music in the backyard and would join us even if he didn’t dance. Jenny’s step-mom and toddler sister would catch a glimpse through the window, and wander out to join the backyard party too. Soon it didn’t matter so much that anyone ever danced like duck because everywhere you looked people were smiling. Isn’t that what matters the most?
Dance is emotion expressed in a healthy way. Try it, fail at it, and laugh at it. You just might remember how awesome it is to dance.
*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.