Parenting is a Dance

Unless of course you count the eye-roll inducing faux break-dancing I do every once in a while just to embarrass my children, I am not what you would call “a dancer.” I am more of a head-bobbing, groove-to-the-beat, Breakin’ wannabe kind of guy. Over the past 20 years, my wife and I have taken a few dance classes, attended a few soirées and it is always fun. We don’t go and dance enough. Not really a regret, just a fact of our life.

But we do dance in some ways every day. We parent.

Of all the metaphors out there about life the most powerful one for me has always been, “It’s a dance.” Whether it is work, family, faith or parenting the nuances of dancing shine through in many ways.

  • Sometimes we are graceful; at other times we are awkward.
  • Sometimes we need to waltz; at other times the Electric slide must be done.
  • Sometimes we are alone; at others times we need to dance with a group.
  • Sometimes we must lead; at other times we must allow ourselves to be lead.
  • . . . and so on and so on.

This week our house has been filled with “the dance” of planning for the future: summer and beyond. In the midst of the stress of balancing parental workloads, the realities of finances, time, energy, interest, etc. – all important variables – our youngest daughter posted this sign on her door.

Yes, sweetie, yes they are.

Ah parenthood . . . I think this is one of those “allow ourselves to be lead” moments in the dance.

The Importance of Making Memories With Our Children

One of the reasons that I am so committed to community: church, family, school, etc. is because I don’t believe we can move forward in healthy ways unless we understand our past. No, this is not a new concept, but it seems that many conversations about innovation, creativity and growth are void of and understanding of and grappling with our shared past. In our instant-gratification, speed-obsessed and conflict-avoiding culture we too easily skip over important parts of building and being community and fail to build foundations that will sustain us into the future. Still, as frustrating and difficult that it often is to build these stories in church, family, school, etc. it’s really the only way that we can all grow.

I have found this need to remember the stories nowhere more important than in the raising and parenting of our children. Next year we will have one daughter in all three levels of our public school system: elementary, middle school and high school so are dealing with multiple stages of life and development. While our conversations about high school and college play a role in building expectations for their growth and help develop some life-disciplines, we don’t do this at the expense of creating space for and acknowledging the glue that holds together all of life’s grand aspirations, thrilling successes and disheartening failures, the “Do you remember when . . .” moment/s.

I was reminded of this again this week as my youngest and I had a couple of those, “Do you remember when . . .” moments. The first was at a baseball game that she and I went to. In full Oakland A’s regalia we walked through the importance of a pitch count, worked on the nuances of boo’ing and ate cotton candy without having to share. In itself, there was nothing all that mind-blowing about the evening, but as the third of three daughters, she so rarely gets Dad-only time that this will def be one of our “Do you remember when . . .” moments.

And then again, after getting tangled up with a park jungle gym during while on a school field trip, her chin was left a little worse for the wear. We had ALMOST made it an entire school-year without having to take a child to the Emergency Room . . . almost.  She ended up not requiring anything more that rest and a pain reliever, but the novelty of laying in a hospital bed, getting a personalized bracelet and grossing people out with her black and blue chin filled her with joy. I can hear it now, in ten years, “Dad, do you remember that time when we had to go to the emergency room because my chin was black and blue?”

As I look back on my own childhood, those “Do you remember when . . . ” moments free me to think about my own upbringing and how I may make good choices in shaping the personhood of my own children.

Do you remember when we used to catch crawdads in the creek?
Do you remember that time you busted me for lying about where I was?
Do you remember when you would scream your heads off at my little league games?
Do you remember that night when you taught me the correct way to pack a car trunk?
Do you remember your reaction when I told you I was getting married?

Obviously, not every “Do you remember when . . .” moment was joyful or planned. Some memories were easy to spot in the distance and others just happened to us, but they are all part of what has shaped and formed my being. Being able to look back on those times, hold them for what they were and allow them to shape my future is a gift that I cherish and a gift that am committed to give to my children so they too can build a future that best reflects and honors the strengths of their past.

So what are your “Do you remember when . . .” moments?