“I’m really horrible at these, but I’ll try my best!” These are the words I heard spilling out of my six year old’s mouth as her gymnastics coach asked her to practice handstands on the bright blue floor. Sandy blonde pigtails flopping, my little one proceeded to fling herself in the air, feet flexed, knees bent, tumbling backwards to her tush most of the time. I giggled to myself and thought, “those really are horrible.”
My youngest follows up a line of three older siblings, all three of whom are quiet, reserved, extremely coordinated, and people pleasers. The baby of the family is none of those things. She has been a whirlwind of energy, sass, and independence from the moment she arrived in the world. The night she was born, the nurses would visit the room each hour and scold me for my lack of swaddling skills. I tried to explain that this little wildcat would squirm, kick and fling herself out of whatever brand of wrapping I attempted. She simply would not be contained – and she still won’t!
As a dance teacher, I spend my life instructing young girls on how to be focused, disciplined, and in control of their bodies. I am good at what I do. Yet somehow I am no match for my own daughter. She crashes in to the room with an exuberance that is unmatched by any of my pretty ballerinas and commands attention in a way that I dream of seeing in my best performers. But she will not be contained!
I’ll admit, her personality can be extremely trying for me and I often believe that God is pushing me to be a better person with every horrible handstand. I am used to making girls good at what they do. In fact, I don’t even settle at good, I am driven to create greatness in every one of my dancers. I correct feet down to the pinky toe. I lift elbows, guide knees backwards, and rotate hips outwards – all in a quest for quiet and focused perfection. And in the midst of all of this, here is my amazing little daughter who bounces through it all in delightful imperfection.
She is a reminder to me of what it means to be strong, to be brave, and to be resilient. All traits that may not have made my top ten until she came along and tore up the list. But watching her, I realize how liberating it must be to simply do what you love, even if you aren’t good at it. How many girls quit dance because they don’t have the right feet, the right legs, or the right body style? How many other girls are afraid to try because they might not be good at it? It’s easy to do something that you’re the best at. How much bravery does it take to do something you are really not good at?
Each day as my bundle of joy swims upstream through the sea of perfect buns and sparkly pink tutus, I am reminded of her ability to blaze her own path. She unabashedly greets every person who comes through the door with a grin and often bounces up to a complete stranger to chat. She doesn’t try to be the best at anything, but instead loves everything she does – a reminder to me that I should knock a few things off of my “to do” list in exchange for some moments of pure delight. So in my daily quest for perfect dancers, with perfect bodies, and perfect technique, I think I’m going to make a little more room for some of my daughter’s brand of wisdom. I am going to do more of the things I love, care less about what others think of me, and allow myself the opportunity to make a mistake. I’m going to dance my way through life…one horrible handstand at a time.