Stitches and Walking: Let us meet our challenges

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It has been a 24 hour period of firsts for my second-born Saul. His first visit to the ER to receive two stitches in his big toe post-lid dropping has been followed by his first unassisted steps, giggling like a wild man, bandaged foot and all. I find myself tearful - wracked by mama-guilt that I usually avoid like a pro paired with deep admiration as my little one pushes past my idea of what he is capable of both in his body and mind. Parenting continues to ride me like an up and down ferris wheel and I find my heart more expansive because of it. 

I see my own teeter totter of emotions reflected back at me in the body of my eldest as she navigates her own desires with the realities of others. I find myself wanting more ease and consistency with her as she rides joy hard followed by dramatic displays of woe, but laugh when I think of how challenging it is for me as the adult (let alone the toddler) to find this consistency as well. Parenting is encouraging extreme patience within me. 

I’m convinced that in the long run, this parenting work will make me a better, more empathetic teacher who feels comfortable both pushing my students to find their edges while being present with them as they struggle to regain their core. I heard a conversation recently between the parent and dance teacher of some kids I shared in a class. The parent mentioned how challenging the class with the teacher had been and how one child was close to tears. I remembered how the week before when those same small bodies were struggling so intensely with some basic breakdancing in my class that I caught sight of a few watery eyes in their efforts. 

These are hard moments for me as a teacher, just as holding Saul’s head steady as his toe was stitched tugged at my inner most fears of being able to protect and care for my babes. I want those glorious moments of pride and success for my students to win the day and carry them chest-forward into the challenges that await them outside of the dance studio. Yet I am reminded by myself and others of the importance of missteps, tough days, and finding the other side after you have faced what you thought you were capable of. 

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Remember those moments in labor when you truly thought you weren’t going to make it? I do. I knew bodies had done this over and over and yet, in those panicked moments, I thought mine was going to give out and up, leaving me trampled and left behind, unable to welcome the creature that was growing inside me. And yet, out she came, and  I loved my body for helping to make it happen.

I tell my students that I used to stand in the corner crying before pique turns. Everyone loved to turn when they were in elementary school. The fast dizzy addiction brought out giggles from even the most serious of my peers, but for me, I only felt fear and my inadequacies at the forefront. I have become a dancer that loves to turn. I pirouette, I turn falling to the ground, and I turn in the arms of others. I remember seeing my foggy eyes my teacher’s steady gaze and constant smile and she watched me work. She didn’t disappear or take away my fear but instead let me work safely in that space. She allowed me to be with my self-doubt without letting me drown in it. 

This is serious business parents and teachers. How hard it is to watch our children struggle and suffer and yet how many opportunities we are given to allow them to do so in safe and manageable ways that have the potential to let them grow into more vast and capable people than they thought possible. I would seriously like to avoid the stitches in the ER as well as the self-hate that can come from too much negativity in the dance studio, but I am committed to being present to my children and students as they find the other side of pain, struggle, and failure. 

Key to this has been having open an ongoing conversations with my students, my kids, the parents of my students, parent friends, and my partner in life and parenting. I am learning to let my students find their limits, even somewhat precariously as they fight self-doubt, while encouraging them to voice their frustrations and debrief afterwards. It’s amazing what an “I love watching you...” statement can do for the confidence of a person trying hold their weight in their arms, master the mechanics of a coffee grinder, and find the perfect balance of opposition in their choreography can do. I have also been surprised and enlightened when I have a moment to touch base with a parent and tell them what I see their kid working on. The nuance of a parent’s perspective in invaluable and sometimes it works wonders for a parent to know that I not only notice their kid’s struggle but care about the process. This brings value to the struggle in many ways. 

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I am committed to allowing space for deep investigations, moments of weakness, and pure falling on your butt. May I keep giving myself permission as well.