My daughter is five. She's enthusiastic, intelligent, funny, and weird, which is really just a lot of adjectives to say she's a lot like a cool five-year-old. Recently, she asked if she could go back to dance class*, and she has been attending for the last month or so. At yesterday's dance class, her teacher allowed parents to sit-in, and I noticed something inspiring.
The kids in this class age from three to five (I think). And while watching them stretch and dance, I saw it. Each kid watched themselves in the mirror--intently. To the point that some of the time, they would leave their spot to get closer to the mirror to see how they looked. And this is the incredible thing to me: their bodies' abilities were amazing these kids. They weren't looking in the mirror self-consciously, they were looking in the mirror reveling in the beauty, strength, and sometimes absurd things their bodies could do. They watched their teacher also. Copied her, laughed when they failed to do so, and beamed when they got it right.
My kid struggled with the forward rolls. She didn't tuck her head all the way, and her teacher had to remind and help her. Afterward, she sat on the mat and watched the other kids roll. She didn't look upset; she looked determined. Later when it was time for the flamingo hops--jumps while bringing one foot to your knee--she looked delighted. She told her teacher, "This is my favorite! I'm good at this one." And here's the thing: she is really good at that one. She loves it. She does it all the time. She is tall for her age, and she is strong. Some of the more graceful, elegant poses are hard for her, but the jumps they practice in class? Those she rocks. It was the same for the other kids. Some of the time they struggled. Some of the time they rocked it. And they knew the difference. They knew when they were doing well and when they were struggling. Asking for help didn't embarrass them, and maybe more importantly, neither did asking for recognition when they succeeded.
These kids impress me because I struggle with confidence. I apologize when I'm not at fault. I downplay my accomplishments and sometimes exaggerate my failures. I don't want anyone to perceive me as arrogant or boastful, and this has led me to a place that I don't particularly like. I'm good at many things, but it's hard for me to admit that. I know a great many things, but I apologize when sharing my expertise. I want to be more like the kids at dance class: confident enough to know when I need help and when I don't. Confident enough to say, "I can do that," without feeling the need to self-deprecate. I want to take an example from these children, so that I can be an example for these children because this kind of confidence is hard to hold on to, especially for girls. And we need this kind of confidence in the world. Confidence that sees strengths and allows for weaknesses. Confidence that makes us want to teach and be taught. Confidence that leads to exuberance. The confidence of five.
*If you are in the Orlando area and dance interests you, check out The Center for Contemporary Dance at thecenterfordance.org. It is an amazing place. They have classes for kids and adults. I can't say enough about the beautiful community they have built around dance.