Keep Dancing


helping children have confidence
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My son—my focused, responsible, deep-thinking son—loves to dance. Like, really, really loves it—but until a month ago, I had no idea.

His school throws dance parties for kids who pass school-wide math tests, and it turns out these parties have become a highlight of his life, after sports and Legos. At home when my girls suggest dance parties, he usually retreats to his man cave (a.k.a. the Lego table)—of course, the girls always go with Disney princess theme music, so maybe that’s the problem. Or maybe he realizes that our third child likes to punctuate her dancing with violent gymnastics, and he’s not a fan of getting kicked in the nose. Whatever the reason, his dancing gifts have remained mostly hidden at home.

But last month at a church party, I got to see my reserved son in all his rhythmic glory. The dj cranked up “Watch Me” (yeah, our church is cool like that). The lyrics demand confidence, command attention: “Watch me whip! Now watch me nae-nae! Watch me, watch me!” Cautious dancers need not apply. You either bring your A-game and your stanky leg, or you sit down. So when my son hit the dance floor, so did my jaw. This was serious business. Work-up-a-sweat business. Leave-your-heart-on-the-dance-floor business.

Dancing has always been a point of sadness for me, a small and stupid loss. When the beat starts, my heart knows what to do, but my body stiffens. If someone says “dance party,” my inner insecure twelve-year-old ducks her head and runs to hide in the bathroom. I’ve decided dancing is kind of like snow skiing—you have to learn how while you’re young enough not to know the dangers, not to fear falling. You have to take advantage of that blessed innocent stage where you think you’re awesome at everything, and assume everyone else agrees with you.

Thank goodness, my son is stanky-legging his way right through that window. Watching him is innocence incarnate. Childhood—no, humanity—at its purest. Unhindered by the feeling of eyes on him, unconcerned about how he looks or whether he’s doing it right, he just lets the music take him. That night at the party, I watched him whip and nae-nae and duff and bop, and right there on the side of the dance floor, I started fighting tears.


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Because I hope he’ll always dance like this: confident, joyful, bold. Right now in his eight-year-old life, he’s cocooned by loving people who keep him safe. Who celebrate and enjoy him. But I know the world, the way it turns on you—one day star-spangled, all wonder and kindness; the next dark-shadowed, all cutting and cruelty. Already his sister, one year older, is coming to know a harsher fourth-grade world, where insecure girls say things like “You’re down there, and we’re up here.” And I fear my son’s day is coming too.

Son, let me tell you something:

One day some sad, self-conscious person may make a sarcastic comment.

Keep dancing.

One day a friend may tease you, joking and provoking the way boys do.

Keep dancing.

One day you might see a group of girls pointing and laughing across the room, and you’ll wonder if they’re laughing at you. The truth is, they’re probably not even thinking about you, but even if they are, you keep dancing.

I’m sorry to tell you there are sad people in the world—lonely people, broken people, hardened by hurts—and they don’t know how to live life the way you live it, the way it’s meant to be lived. When you meet those people, you know what you do? You feel sad for them, but you don’t let them break you too. You pull a Taylor Swift and shake it off, then whip and nae-nae for good measure. If you have to, you go ahead and pull out the stanky leg too.

Keep dancing, son.

Do it for yourself, because it’s who you are and what you love.

And you know what else? Do it just a little bit for me, too. One day I want you to pull me out there on the dance floor with you and help me find the confidence and courage I need, the sauciness it takes to chant, “Watch me, watch me,” then go on dancing like no one’s watching after all.


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Author: Elizabeth Laing Thompson VIEW ALL AUTHORS POSTS

Elizabeth works from home as a writer, editor, diaper changer, baby snuggler, laundry slayer, not-so-gourmet chef, kid chauffeur, floor mopper, dog groomer, and tantrum tamer. She is always tired, but it's mostly the good kind.

22 comments

Comments
  • Tanya January 14, 2016 at 7:12 am

    Just think Elizabeth…you will have a Mother/Son dance at his wedding before you know it…it comes far too fast…

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson January 14, 2016 at 8:02 am

      I know, Tanya. I can’t even. It all goes too fast.

  • Lisa Laing January 14, 2016 at 10:04 am

    You dance when you write, Elizabeth. This was
    Wonderful.

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson January 14, 2016 at 5:09 pm

      Oh, thank you, Lisa! That actually really helps me. 🙂

  • David Laing January 14, 2016 at 11:08 am

    This is just great. My kids were having a dance party (more head banging than dancing, really) the other night and some friends happened to be over for dinner and they witnessed it. My 8 year old son at one point jumped up on the ottoman directly in front of them and and proceeded to wriggle his body all over the place. They died laughing. He didn’t notice. It was wonderful 🙂

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson January 14, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      I can totally picture him doing this! I LOVE these boys. I hope they stay this way forever.

  • Sam Laing January 14, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    As a kid, I was like Blake, I just joyfully danced. Then I got self conscious. Now, I am looking regularly at pictures of me as a little kid and am invoking Jesus’ words to “humble yourself and become as a child” – and I am loving it. I turn up the music in the garage and have fun during my workouts. My Old Testament hero David was a dancer – now, me too – again! “I Hope You Dance”

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson January 14, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      Love it, Dad! I have always loved crazy Dad, especially when you did the scooting-across-the-stage-on-your-back move from “Back to the Future.” Dance on, Sammy! 🙂

  • Aisha January 14, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    This was really great. In Baltimore, we get in our fair share of stanky leg. They actually incorporated stanky leg into our step aerobics routine this morning, but I digress. Thanks you for posting. I hope to share the same words with my son.

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson January 14, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      Thanks, Aisha! Oh wow. Your step aerobics class sounds SERIOUS! Love it!

  • Sherry Nader January 14, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Elizabeth, I love it!! This is so great. I have always loved to dance but married someone who didn’t. Everyone should dance like no one is looking. I know I do!! Love you.

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson January 20, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      Now I know where Sara’s dancing skills came from, Sherry! Love and miss you!

  • Debbie Mackie January 14, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    This article made me cry!!! So powerful, so “dancing” as your sister said!! I think of our grandson Ben who did the Nae Nae not long ago at our camp out and he was just like your son! I need to be less self-conscious too. Maybe one day…

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson January 20, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      Thanks, Debbie! Maybe one day we’ll be childlike enough to dance the way they do!

  • Blanca Montano January 15, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Beautiful. I’m that little kid still who forgets about the world when I’m in the dance floor . Very encouraging words to your son that many of us needed to hear growing up but at the same time many of us need to be sharing to our kids . Thanks Elizabeth

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson January 20, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      Thanks, Blanca! I hope I can learn to dance the way you do!

  • Lucy Wang January 17, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    every post makes me cry…really moves something deep within me. I’ll be resharing this with my family and twin-teen-siblings again. we even discussed a few blogs you wrote over xmas break when I saw them. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this extraordinary way. you are leaving a tremendous legacy (not just for your son). a fan always from far away.

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson January 20, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      Thanks so much, Lucy! Your messages and comments always make my day!

  • Jessica January 21, 2016 at 1:32 am

    This was beautiful! I actually love to dance. Your post touched my heart. I want my kids to ” dance” in all areas of their lives. After dinner, we like to play hip hop music and dance for a few minutes before we start clearing the table and begin our night time routine. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day, to watch my 18 month old, 4 yr old and hubby groove away. As silly as this sounds, I dance the most but it makes us all so happy. If only, I could “dance” away in all areas of my life! Thank you so much for sharing, again, just beautiful!!

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson January 21, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      How fun! I love at-home dance parties—they are one of my favorite things too…one of the only times I let myself let loose in the dancing department. 😀 Thanks so much for the kind words!

  • Anneil February 2, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    As I was reading your post, two thoughts kept replaying in my head:
    1) Always dance like no one is watching!
    2) The lyrics to the song “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack

    I hope your son never loses the courage to dance!

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson February 2, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      Thank you so much, Anneil! Fantastic quotes, and I hope so too!

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