Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Salsa, dancing is one of my passions. This love of dance starts in my childhood, dancing while standing on my father’s feet, watching Shirley Temple tap dance, and studying John Travolta’s moves in Saturday Night Fever as a teenager. My goal is to become a backup dancer on the Carol Burnett show, which is my favorite television show at that time.
Dance lessons, going to the disco every weekend (yes, I am dating myself here) and attending college as a Dance major keeps my love of movement alive. Physical stamina and flexibility were by-products of all my efforts; little do I know that emotional flexibility will be even more important down the road…
Facebook posts at this time of year from friends who are sending children back to school or saying good-bye as they head to college, take me back to the year that Jeff and I had two college freshman leaving our home. Our daughter left first, attending the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Our hearts sank knowing that five hours separated us and that even though cell phones would make it easy to talk, physical contact would be limited. Two weeks later, our son moved in to his anything but homey dorm room six hours away attending the University of Minnesota-Mankato (MSU).
I really thought that for a hands on mom, I did rather well as we deposited them into the big, bad world of college campus chaos. Trying not to hover, helping them only if they asked and not breaking down into what Oprah describes as an ugly cry as we exited their dorm rooms, was truly a personal triumph.
But, it was all an act! Heading back to Southeastern, Wisconsin to our now childless home, this new life transition became a scary reality. As I burst into tears my husband, trying to find something to divert my attention had me look out the window at the beautiful sun soaked countryside where calves were grazing in the farm field and nursing along their mothers.
Not a good idea! I then went into a dissertation about how it was just yesterday that my young “calves” needed me for everything and now they were out of my protective reach. The worse than ugly cry became a meltdown that went on for miles – plugging up my sinuses and making my face feel as swollen as it did when all four wisdom teeth got pulled.
Funny thing is, after all the crying, I felt so much better emotionally. Processing feelings, flushing the toxins out through tears, and acknowledging any life loss, helps us to take it in and accept the change.
Seven years later, we continue to learn the dance that all parents should learn; the dance of partnering with your adult children instead of leading them. I am proud of Jeff and me for coping with our losses in productive ways while continuing to emotionally support our kids where ever they lead themselves.
We are not as flexible physically as we were years ago, but we continue to practice emotional flexibility. We have learned how to share them with loving partners, listen to their concerns as they navigate new job situations and living arrangements and we don’t take it personally when you can’t always get what we want (remember that song?) when it comes to their time.
When they are in our midst; however, we dance with delight! Their moves are different from ours, the music we often don’t recognize, but we embrace the opportunity to learn, to change and be flexible in new ways.