27 February 2014

Enchantment Under the Sea

My kid is growing up. Too fast. Sure, he’s still a kid, but pretty soon, he won’t be. It’s tough.

Last week, he attended his first school dance.

He’s in kindergarten. Kindergarten.

How did this happen? How did it come to this?

The dance was an all-student event, part of a school spirit week. So far, he had not been too inclined to participate. It was a short week, but the first day, all the kids were encouraged to come in with a funny hairdo or colored hair. No go. The Doozer wanted no part of it. The next day, he did wear his school T-shirt and agree to attend the dance. With me.

His mother was disappointed.

“But, Mom, you got to take me to the talent show, so it wouldn’t be fair to Daddy if I don’t take him to the dance,” he offered, by way of rationale. Apparently, we are raising a skilled courtroom attorney. I mean, that’s rock-solid, you can’t argue with that logic.

One of the reasons he was interested in the dance is that he loves music. And dancing, actually. In fact, living room dance parties are a regular activity in our house these days. This is what we do now. I was never much for dancing myself (okay, that’s not entirely true), but since we started introducing our kids to music that isn’t specifically made for children, they have been moved to move and will break into rapturous dancing within seconds of iTunes being launched. Just seeing the little musical note icon onscreen gets Little Brother shaking.

And for me, this is a big part of parenthood. Not just teaching them to navigate the world, right and wrong, things like that. But to appreciate art and culture. Helping build their relationship to pop culture. Even just to dance around the living room, giggling like maniacs. Art will move you, make you laugh. It is important. Yes, you can learn about math and science, how to balance a checkbook, drive a car, how to function like a human being in the world, but without art, what’s the point? Just, exist, as my friend Llewyn Davis might say?

I don’t think so.

And right now, it’s music. And a school dance. We talked beforehand about what kind of music they’d play. One of the Doozer’s current favorites is Pearl Jam. (That’s right, I did that. I got my kid into Pearl Jam. Dad of the year, over here.)

I told him I didn’t think they’d be playing any Pearl Jam. Why not? he wanted to know. I’m not sure it’s an elementary school-aged type of thing, I told him. That’s all. Basically, son, when you scream out “Mind your manners!” in the backseat of the car like a mini Eddie Vedder-in-training on the way to school, you’re pretty much the coolest kindergartner that ever was.

In the end, while the dance offered some highlights, including free pizza and a photo booth with goofy props and costumes (the image of our kid and his pal flashing a giant, Flavor Flav-ish dollar sign still makes me laugh), there was not much actual dancing done.

He was shy.

This was not his living room. That comfortable space where he shakes with abandon, where he can fully let his freak flag fly. There were “a million hundred thousand” kids at the dance. Or some other number based on his sketchy grasp of math and numerals. And so he was shy.

Though they did play some his favorites. We made sure to tell his mom about “Royals” and “Safe and Sound” and “What Does the Fox Say?” and his favorite: “Everything Is Awesome.”

We got a little toe-tapping here and there. Some very quiet singing along with Tegan and Sara. But I get it. Totally. Being in that gymnasium brought back a lot of memories of my own school dances. Sweaty palms and nervous fidgeting. Girls I didn’t have the courage to talk to. Worrying about my moves. All these things that I can’t possibly prepare him for. Or possibly explain. He’s just going to have to experience them for himself. School dances. Crushes. Awkwardness.

Oh god, the awkwardness.

But until then, we’ll have our own private dance parties. Just this morning, to assuage a crying, thrashing toddler refusing to eat his breakfast, I cranked up “Get Lucky” on my wife’s iPhone and started dancing around the kitchen with all the Nile Rodgers-inspired grooviness I could muster. It caught him off-guard. Little Brother stopped his fit for a moment to see what his crazy dad was doing. And the Doozer loved it. Just ate it up.

Kitchen dancing. This is parenting. When I’m tired, frustrated, despondent—I can always think about living room dance parties and know that I’m not all bad at this thing.

Everything really is awesome. I mean, my kid knows The Lonely Island now. How good is that?

1 comment:

  1. I love this, Matt, and all your posts. Some are especially sweet though. My only problem is that there are not nearly enough posts!