Monday, February 06, 2006

Sometimes we dance, sometimes we slip, sometimes we just stand still

Listening to: Super Furry Animals, Songbook: Singles, Vol. I

As I watched Lilly dancing with her first grade class, I was reminded that she's not the child with daddy's music gene. Amongst all the children on the gym floor, she was one of the kids spazzing out, not getting the vibe. She was going through the motions - an arm out here, a step there - but her movements were all mechanical, measured, doing what she was told to do. Lilly was merely being a good student, putting 'A' and 'B' together, step here, shuffle there, slide, slide, slide.

As I've progressed within daddyhood, I've come to realize my kids aren't perfect. All those Baby Einstein videos and Cds seemed to do was to help them become maestroes of the big fricken mess. Given some place and enough stuff, with markers and other implements of vandalism, my children will wreck a room, prodigeously.

With an eye on damage control, I'm thinking I should be proactive, nurture an interest in something other than screwing stuff up just for the sake of screwing stuff up. Obviously, I don't any of my children to grow up to be president.

Lilly loves animals and has a curiosity about the natural world beyond "Why is the sky blue?" If I'm carrying a spider outside (because she's insisted against me killing it), she insists on looking at it, seeing where I put it, asking if it will find food wherever I put it.

Last summer she watched as I caught a beetle and tossed it deep into a web built within the hood of a seat sitting on a derelict bicycle. At the periphery of the web hung the shrouded carcasses of previous prey, shells gray, black, and brown wrapped in tattered silk. Lilly watched in awe as the spider shot out of the shadow and attacked, "He's going to make it into a mummy like those other, dead bugs," she said, her arm crooked in mine, bouncing anxiously on the balls of her feet.

She says she wants to be a zoo keeper when she grows up. I can see that. A naturalist, a scientist, a seeker of truth. Or she could be a waitress at Denny's; she'd be no less the brilliant ray of light she is. I see no need to pressure her, to encumber her with my whacked-out ideas of what she should be, to try and deny her the right to be what she wants to be.

As most of the other children got their groove on, Lilly flailed around, timorous and reluctant, a full step and half off from the rest. That's fine, I thought, I don't have to watch the other kids, the presentation, I only have to watch her, capture that moment of her becoming in my mind. Not looking within, not even feeling pride because all there was at that moment was her and the space she inhabited. There in the reflection of the pristine gym floor she looked like a sunflower, whispy and elegant, swaying chaoticaly in a late summer's breeze.

To my daughter's credit, the kids had to be there, lessons of the first grade: line up, join the group, socialize, dance with one another. I don't know if I like the first two but I do like "dance with one another." Despite Lilly's failure as a dancer, her enthusiasm for holding hands and skipping and looking into another's eyes and saying, unsaid, "You're cool, I like you, let's do this," more than qualified her a place on the floor. Even if she stays out of step.

Feigned detachment; daddy's proud, proud she's out of step. Ecstatic to see daddy in the stands, she did her best, following the directions she'd been given. Unconcerned, she stayed out of step and stayed happy. And if there's anyting at all that I wish on Lilly is that she stays happy.


landismom said...

What a great tribute to your daughter's dance lesson--and your gift as a parent. To love your kids as they are, not as you want them to be--can any of us hope for more than that?

trusty getto said...

Nice post. Most of what I read (and write) about kids is the "proud" daddy stuff. But, you're right, they aren't perfect.

The finest gifts my parents gave me were to leave me alone when I wanted, support what I wanted to do rather than tell me what I should be doing, and to let me know that I deserved to be happy. If I can do this for mine, I will have succeeded as a daddy for the most part.

Anne said...

Aw Jim, that's just so sweet. I have kids who can dance, and kids who take after their father-not a pretty sight.

They are so wonderful despite the imperfections and isn't that grand? Because you know, they love US despite ours, don't they?

MsM said...

I wanted to say hi, I am always reading and you never know when I am here. You do everything with such great passion. Your kids, your job, your friends, life. To be close to that flame........Lucky me. Yes, he does EVERYTHING with great passion.

vicki said...

Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine dances...
I think dancing is one best done to some inner muse and I always sort of admire people who can just move to their own music. And you know me- I can't think of anything finer than to be a steward of Mother Nature. Foster that passion!

Nice nice post, Jim. Made my evening.