I have the most amazing six year old son. He’s bright, funny, articulate, sweet and simply awesome. He also loves to dance. Multiple times a day I find him busting out moves – there doesn’t even need to be music playing. He simply has an imaginary beat in his head and performs well choreographed numbers that fill our house with laughter.
He’s been like this for as long as I can remember. There’s no need to watch MTV because our computer is littered with his dance interpretation of every top 20 hit.
We haven’t really explored dance, but we’ve put him in every traditional sport out there and he loves them all. He’s not particularly skilled at any of them, but he has an incredible desire to learn and really just enjoys being around all the other kids. Because he’s so kind and generous, other children are drawn to him like a magnet. It truly makes up for all his athletic misgivings. Sometimes when I listen to him talk to other kids, I forget that he’s not like most 6 year olds. I was driving another boy to our house and while the other boy was making strange noises and repeating everything my son said just to annoy him, my son ignored it and started asking him questions about his favorite bands/songs. He couldn’t believe the other boy didn’t know what Thrift Shop was or who Macklemore, Drake or the Black Eyed Peas were. His friend answered, “Well my mom drives a different car with a different radio, so of course we’re not going to know the same songs.”
He was at basketball camp last week, and I surprised him at the break to take him to 7-Eleven for Slurpees. As we left the store, there was a group of boys hanging outside sharing stories and laughing. When we got to the car, I said, “that will be you one day, hanging with your basketball friends after practice – won’t that be fun?” I then added, “or maybe you’ll be there after a different sport, what do you think you’ll do in high school? Soccer, lacrosse, hockey, baseball?”
He threw on a huge grin and said, “I’m going to dance.” I paused for a moment, smiled and said “Really? That’s great.” He went on, “I’m not going to do ballet kind of dance, but Justin Timberlake kind of dance. I’m going to be on So You Think You Can Dance and blow the judges away.”
Later that night he had a T-ball game. I was sitting with a group of parents that I didn’t know very well, but enough where we were making small talk before the game. I told the story about my son informing me he wanted to dance in high school and a barrel chested man that looked like his glory days happened about 20 years ago bellowed out, “If my son wanted to dance, I would kill myself.”
SCREEEEEECH – the bleachers went silent.
Nobody knew what to say. I’m pretty sure it was his wife that kind of chuckled uncomfortably and said, “oh you’re so funny”
I’m fairly biting and quick witted, but his seriousness even caused me to pause and drop my jaw. After a few minutes of awkward silence, I finally regained my composure and said, “Please tell me you would make the same offer if I danced” I then walked over to my son, who doesn’t really even like T-ball all that much and asked him if he wanted to leave.
“Right now?!? Before the game starts?”
“Yeah, why not, you don’t love this anyway, do you?”
“Not really, my best friend didn’t come today and it’s pretty boring waiting around for the kids to swing 20 times before they hit the ball. Sure – can we go to the pool?”
We grabbed all his stuff, told the coach we had to go (there were 14 kids there, so I think he was relieved) and I stopped in front of the blow hard and gave him one last parting comment as we left. “Good luck with your son’s therapy bills.”
We jumped into our jeep, blasted the music and left the parking lot with my son singing Radioactive at the top of his lungs.
Once we arrived at the pool, he was immediately engulfed by a group of friends, and I felt my heart drop. I worried about his passion being squashed by traditional thinking. My eyes started to well up as I thought about his eternal optimism being challenged by every parent out there that believes boys should follow one path. It’s not the first time we’ve encountered ignorant parents that fail to see little boys as individuals instead of reflections of who they wish they could have been. It was just the first time that I felt his amazing personality wouldn’t be able to overcome societies viewpoint that unless a boy is athletically focused, he is worthless.
That basketball camp he took was with a group that was much older than he was. The balls and nets were regulation weight, size and height. He was out of his league among the 6th-8th graders. I asked him at the end of the session, “How was it today?” He answered the same way every day, “It wasn’t good. It wasn’t good, because it was great. I loved it.” “Did you make a basket?” “Nope, didn’t reach it today, but I think I will tomorrow.” When I asked him if any of the kids ever made fun of him, he looked at me in horror and and couldn’t believe what I was asking. He said, “Of course not. Why would anyone ever make fun of me? We’re teammates. That’s a weird question.”
I know one day that his naivete will fade and unfortunately there are plenty of jackass dads out there that will work to make it vanish sooner than later. I’m going to do everything in my power to keep him surrounded by the type of boys in his camp and have him avoid parents that are simple minded. I know I can’t protect him forever, but I can put off the inevitable until he’s strong enough to take it and not allow it to change who he is.
I’m also going out tomorrow to find him a Justin Timberlake dance class.
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