(By Bryna Jones — Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
Growing up, I wasn’t particularly athletic. Early failure in Phys. Ed. class (yes, I was the girl who was always picked last for the team) brought on a chronic fear of team sports, and physical exertion in general. I was quite content faking sick in the Nurse’s office during gym class while the other students ran around sweating and kicking balls at each other’s faces. So it came as a surprise, when forced by my mother to take dance lessons that I could not only move in in time to the music, but that I was actually pretty darn good at it. This chubby ten year old had some moves!
My dance teacher was a case study in what not to do when teaching children. Sporting her leotard, beehive and caustic attitude, Marge* (*name has been changed so as not to reveal identity) would chain smoke in the church basement where we took our lessons, while spewing out instructions, and the rare physical cue.
“Move your arm like this! No – LIKE THIS!” Takes drag off cigarette.
I progressed through jazz, tap and Highland dancing respectively. But I was harbouring a secret. What I really wanted was to be a ballet dancer.
Every evening, while tying my tap shoes and waiting for the smell of stale cigarette smoke to usher me into the church basement, I would stare longingly at the ballet students. They had pink leotards with their cute little matching pink slippers. They had shiny hair tied up in buns. With eyes open wide and mouth agape I would think, “They have it ALL.”
One night I got up the nerve to ask Marge if she thought it might be ok if maybe I could try ballet dancing. Inhaling her cigarette and staring down at me from atop her 6” heels she said with mild disinterest, “No. You’re too fat.” Dreams shattered, I finished another season of dancing, and lost interest in it altogether.
During the holiday this past December, a friend invited me over for dinner. Her daughter had gotten a new Wii game for Christmas: Just Dance 3. (Cue Black Swan soundtrack here.) Hours later, drenched in sweat, a ten year old girl having danced circles around me, I promptly went to Wal-Mart to pick up my own copy. Marching into the house I stood in front of my son and said in a deadpan voice, “We’re playing this, and we’re going to have fun.”
My new interest in Wii elated him, and he ran to the television to set up the game. Little did he know of my pent up childhood dance-related aggression. After three days of playing Just Dance 3, I had tallied over 250 points, unlocked 10 new songs, and gotten three badges. (Take that, Marge!)
But the problems began when my “trigger” arm begun to swell on day two. I was having trouble making a fist. My entire arm ached when I held the remote. By the time I got to work after the holidays, I couldn’t lift the coffee pot and typing was painful. It was clear that beyond the immediate physical issue, I was also developing psychological problems when I borrowed a friend’s Wii and purchased Just Dance 2 in order to “practice”. I danced through the pain until I finally couldn’t take it anymore, and realized I was either going to have to let myself heal or end up in the hospital.
Moral of the story: Don’t be like Marge. If a child in your life really wants to do something – whether you think they are capable or not (“Dad, I’m getting really passionate about unicycling.” “That’s wonderful, honey!”) – just let them do it. Moral #2: If you’re an adult with unfulfilled childhood dreams, go make them happen! (I’m hoping to take adult ballet classes with the National Ballet School next fall.) Or those pent up desires may manifest themselves in less than appropriate ways when you least expect it.
Your turn! What lessons have you learned from life’s awesome and absurd moments? Share you stories with us and help us grow our collection of teachable misadventures.