Last weekend, we went to an art festival down by the river. The sun decided to make an appearance, and we walked the steps between the booths of artisans under its warm glow.
It was Mother’s Day, so we went down as a family but my wife shooed us off occasionally so she could inspect every object from every artist at every booth while my son and I hopped down the steps and leaned over the ledge to watch the ducks and the fish in the brown, murky water.
Every so often, my son and I would wander back up to where we saw my wife last and play a game to see who could spot her first. We would join her and look at a few of the booths before again wandering off to look for toys or games or artistic curiosities.
On one of our excursions, we came to a section of steps that was near the empty stage that had music being piped through the speakers. My son asked me to take pictures of him jumping off a pillar near the steps because he’s six and he is a boy and that is what boys do.
As he finished inspecting the proof of his daring feat, a new song pumped through the speakers. Without hesitation, my son started to dance.
When I say dance, I don’t mean that he danced in place. Rather, a year of hip hop classes all culminated in a Jamiroquai-esque virtual insanity explosion of choreographed maneuvers from the top of the steps all the way down to the bottom where he ended his performance with a set of finger snaps and a bow.
I was never that brave.
I would have been (still am) too embarrassed to dance in public. Even though my ten-year plan includes a TED talk, I’m terrified of being in front of people or being the center of attention.
Clearly, my brave, brave son doesn’t have that affliction.
Sure, he has his moments. He gets nervous or self-conscious when he drinks his oil in front of his classmates. He sometimes won’t do something brand new in front of other people, although, usually he says he won’t but winds up trying it anyway.
As a parent, there are a lot of things I want differently for my son than I had growing up. I never really felt secure or safe. I didn’t feel like anyone really had my back, or that it was okay to try something and fail. I always felt different, and that being different was a very bad thing.
I desperately wanted my son to grow up free from the fear that gripped me as a child and that rears its ugly head so many years later. I think it’s even more important that he feel safe, and secure, and supported, and special because he will be made to feel different because he has epilepsy. Feeling different is okay; feeling “less than” or bad or wrong is not.
Most days, I wonder if I’m doing it right. I wonder if I tell him to “stop” too much, or if he sees my discomfort when eyes turn our way because he is being silly, or inappropriate, or simply because he is being six. But I am encouraged when he feels the need to dance and does it as if no one is watching (or maybe because everyone is watching). When he does, I feel like maybe, just maybe, he’s on the right path.
“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche