I went dancing a couple weeks ago. Errrrr, pump the brakes. Let me re-phrase. I went to a club to hear a friend spin some reggae (I know, who is this guy, right?), and my body just started moving. I couldn’t really help it. And it felt good.
Mind you, I can’t dance. Self-consciousness always choke-slammed my decent coordination and relatively acute sense of rhythm into submission. I’ve always had this irrational fear of attending weddings based on this. It’s weird, it’s something I live with.
Anyhoo, I mention this not to elicit pity or free lessons, but to draw a comparison. Because while I’m sure I looked absolutely ridiculous, flailing and gyrating at this club, I thought I was good. This is what matters most, right? Some subsequent brutally honest self-critique tells me I was not nearly as awesome as I thought, but, more importantly, led me to a very Billy Idol conclusion. I can hold my own alone, but it takes all my focus; I just can’t dance with a partner.
This is a long-winded way of comparing dancing to parenting. Sure, we often look ridiculous with our burp rag adornments, our drool-or-worse stained accoutrements. But I’m talking about the rhythm of a newborn, and trying to find a beat we can both groove to.
HP is now at the age where she should be getting on a schedule. Specifically, two naps a day. As she is the second child, I wasn’t pulling any punches, and did not hesitate to pull the trigger on implementing a schedule that would work for, well, me. She WANTED a schedule, I told myself. She doesn’t know how to behave; she needs to be shown.
It turns out of course that I wanted it more than she did. With my wife returning to work, I wanted structure, something I set my watch by, give or take. So I tried. And tried. And then tried again.
She was having none of it. Unlike Bub, whom I spar with on occasion over putting toys away, etc., this was not a battle of wills, which is what took me a while to figure out. She simply was not physically capable of staying up for the stretches I’d envisioned. It led to many a meltdown, an unhappy baby, and an equally unhappy daddy.
So…I changed tacks. Instead of just dancing with myself (oh oh oh oh) out there, oblivious to the world around me, I tried to actually dance WITH my daughter. I watched her, tried to figure out her moves before imposing mine. I let her lead. I worked to complement them instead of undermining them or just defaulting to The Robot.
She’s taught me patience. She taught me that sometimes it doesn’t make sense (you just ate an hour ago!), but it just feels right. Find the beat, and the rhythm will come. Move with me, Daddy. There are missteps, of course, but we’re getting there. I warm bottles now before the tears come. Her eyes, much more so than the clock, tell me when it’s naptime. We’re no Fred and Ginger yet, but we’re getting there. Someday maybe she’ll even trust me to lead.