December 2013, May 2018, February 2019

This whole dance thing? Honestly, I have no idea.

Jacob (Jake or Jakey at the time) started dancing in the fall of 2013, he was 4 years old and the middle of my three kids. Maybe if I had an interest (or ability) in dance myself, the moment he started taking hip hop would have been a bit more momentous and there’d be some story of how it all began. But I’m not and there isn’t.

So to answer the question, “How did Jake start dancing?” I’ll simply smile and shrug…. who knows.

The likely answer is that someone – our babysitter, a friend or even I (probably the babysitter, she was the best!) – saw a boys hip hop class starting at a local dance studio and thought “why not?” And NEVER in a million years did anyone think it would end up where it is today. For reference, “where it is today” is approximately 15 hours of dance a week – tap, ballet, hip hop, contemporary, 5 regional competitions, national competition, a dance convention, a recital, and an annual membership at The Joyce… And my 7 year old now takes 6 dance classes, plus three regional competitions… And I know how to make a bun. And once I sewed the straps on ballet shoes (but I’ll NEVER do that again!). So if you need me, call me, because chances are I’m in the car!!

I remember a friend saying to me at a new mother’s group, when my now 11 year old daughter was a baby, that she put her child on a horse at a fair and it drastically changed the next 15 years of her life (horse camp in Florida anyone??)…. Sucker, I thought smugly at the time. Fast forward to the spring of 2019 and I could have bought myself a Birkin bag with my kids’ dance tuition, so who’s the sucker now??

My point, if there is one, is that not everything needs to start in a remarkable way. Maybe if I saw that this was a possibility, there would have been no start at all. Maybe if this was my vision all along, my son would have hated it. You don’t need a plan for everything, you just have to be open to anything.

When he was four or five I took Jacob, my older daughter and two of my friend’s high school kids to see Swan Lake at Lincoln Center. If I’d been paying attention, I’d have known right then and there that this boy LOVES dance! Of my three kids, he’s the only one who can stay awake through the Nutcracker, and over the past year he and I have seen 4 shows at The Joyce (if you’re near NYC, this is an amazing and inexpensive venue). Who knew? REALLY THOUGH, WHO KNEW?? I didn’t, it was the answer to a question I didn’t know I was supposed to ask. And now here we are and so much of who Jacob is right now revolves around dance; the confidence he has, the people he spends time with, the things he’s interested in.

It seems so random for dance to have fallen into our lives, and it begs the question of how do we know what our kids (or what we as people) like, if we don’t try it all. And I’m not saying to try it all, because that sounds exhausting… but are you asking your kids questions? Are you talking about new things, different from the things that you personally know about and are comfortable with?? I have another blog post brewing about how, in an age of seemingly endless possibilities, you can know the depth or breadth of all your options… Teaser, as an adult, it has a ton to do with who you spend time with and what information you take in (books, news, podcasts, social media). But for our kids, WE are the main source of information for them, we are their exposure.

I often tell my kids about all of the books I read. I also love to listen to audio books and will sometimes listen when they’re in the car… they’ll either ignore it or pick up on something the author or reader is saying. Be careful with this one though, this is how Santa was ruined for my then 9 year old son… oops! As a mother who has NEVER engaged a separate and high pitched voice when speaking to my kids, talking to them about the things I’m reading, interested in, and learning about, feels like a great way to model how I think, form opinions, broaden my view and contemplate the world.

But I digress….

Back to dance… these pictures are a transformation over six years, with no plan except to follow the internal GPS of 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and now 10 year old. Honestly, without this first photo and the time stamp from my phone, I’m not sure I’d have known exactly how long this boy had been tearing up the dance floor. And that’s ok. There aren’t alway fireworks and a big to do to indicate something meaningful is about to happen…. so you have to pay attention to the more subtle signs.