Dancing Along and Stepping on Toes

Immediately after my 8th grade graduation, my school arranged a little party for the graduates, more specifically a dance. A dance that included slow dancing. It escapes me if I knew about the slow dancing part, but up until that time I had never been exposed to slow dancing. There was a time I went to a Bar Mitzvah in 5th grade, but there wasn’t much of any dancing.   Thank goodness for my classmate who ended up being my first dance partner. She was a sweetheart about my first dance, and didn’t mind me mashing her toes up a bit. It certainly took some time to figure out the footwork of swaying back and forth and not obsessively staring at one’s feet. By the end of our brief 8th grade graduation dance, I felt accomplished in my academics, as well as knowing the basics of dance.   I’m not sure if I ever got better at dancing, despite drop-in ballroom dance classes, learning choreography for various musicals, or participating in Zumba. There have certainly been many times where toes were mashed, flying elbows hit someone in the head, or general collisions occurred with other dance partners. You would think I would have given up on dance, but it’s still an enjoyable activity, and I am still trying to figure it all out.   Before I ever listened to a country song, a good friend shared some lyrics with me:

Life’s a dance you learn as you go

Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow

Don’t worry about what you don’t know

Life’s a dance you learn as you go

-John Michael Montgomery


Back then I thought these lyrics were profound, and to this day, I find the words just as relevant and applicable to life.


I don’t know about you, but I’m still stepping on toes and falling on my face; I still have a quite a bit of learning to do. I think many adults would also agree with me that there’s still many things we’re figuring out, whether it’s parenting, new work related skills, or a new DIY project. As adults, most of us are ok with our own mistakes and failures, able to learn and move on in stride.


However, somewhere in recent history, the standards and expectations for younger people, our own children have changed. There is an idea that kids should just be able to get up and dance, and any sort of stepping on toes or dance fails would be non-existent, or avoided at all costs. Somehow parents decided that if young people were spared disappointments, loss, failure, mistakes, that this would enhance the development and future success of their child. As a result, I have seen young people crippled by fear of making a mistake, having difficulty accepting responsibility for their inactions, and uncertain how to seek out help. The most basic goal of parenting is to prepare a child for adulthood. A parent can only hope that their adult child will be able to persevere through challenges, seek out supports when needed, and make responsible decisions to themselves and those that may be affected by their decision(s). Parents should want to gradually expose and prepare their children for challenges that lie ahead, and for young people to understand that despite obstacles that may arise, their parent(s) are going to be there by their side the whole way, rather than pulling them over and through each barrier.

“Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow | Don’t worry about what you don’t know | Life’s a dance you learn as you go.”

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