The Dance by Noreen Heffernan


Sometimes I feel like I’m in a show, doing a dance, but nobody taught me the routine. My cues are off. But the show is continuing and I’m shuffling along, just a beat or two behind everyone else. Everyone’s arms are up in a V with their heads tilted upward and mine are down at my sides with my head turned to the side.

Meet my dance partner; she has dirty blonde hair, blue eyes, and a mischievous mind and grunts when she doesn’t get her way by crossing her arms over her chest and turning her head.

This is our dance.

I have to pick up my 4 year old daughter from school at 3. I go in and wake up my 2 ½ year old at 2:45. She is groggy and sleepy. I promise her a fruit snack if she takes a nap and I have to deliver. It is waiting on the table by the door. Her hair is messy and she sits there telling me the colors of her fruit snack one by one as she eats them while I put her shoes on. She is happy on the way to pick-up. She screams, “Mommy, a red one.” She eats them quickly and then throws the wrapper on the floor of the car. I ignore it.

I get her out of the car and proceed to walk across a long, grassy lawn that consists of more than 150 steps to get to the door, give or take. Her happiness disappears as fast as a magician getting rid of that coin. Poof!!! Now you see it…

Each day, the show goes on and I think I’ve got it, but my dance partner changes routines mid-step.

The whines start slowly but resolutely right on cue in her head; totally off cue for me.

Through the winter, I always held her as we walked across the snow covered grass, CRUNCH…CRUNCH…CRUNCH. But now she should walk and/or run; the grass is green and the sun is shining. It’s time for her big twirl. But, she doesn’t. She wants to be held. I insist on holding hands but she doesn’t relent. She walks in front of me with arms outstretched. I side-step and she side-steps with me like we are doing this special choreographed dance routine but it is a dance that she knows the steps to and I don’t. Shuffle, shuffle, step MOM! I pick her up and she wants down. She cries when I put her down. She continues the routine and I continue to pick her up and put her down all the way to the door.

The long winded dance routine has gotten old to me at this point but it is only the first act for her. And now we have to turn around and repeat it back to the car. Up, down, cry, hold. Shuffle. Step. Up, down, cry, hold. WRONG! HELP!

Why is it that sometimes the hardest parts of your day are the ones that nobody would think about? Like getting the kids in and out of the car will put me over. In and out, buckle and unbuckle. Sometimes I lie in bed in the morning and think about that part of my day and think to myself, “’I cannot do THAT part of my day today.” I just can’t.

That is how I feel about the long walk to the door of pre-school. Sometimes, I just cannot do it. The CRIES!!! If I ignore her, she stands in her spot and cries. She cries like I just told her there will never be another lollipop in her hand again. She cries like she is 14 and her Zach Morris look-alike boyfriend just broke her heart. She cries like her heart is broken in a million zillion tiny pieces and I have to pick them up one by one and heal her.

So I do. So, I pick her up. So I repeat this dance routine over and over again. September through April. What feels like now and forever; since the beginning of time; the end of always.

You don’t need to tell me that I will miss it when she is older. I KNOW! You don’t have to tell me to enjoy the snuggles. I KNOW! I’m blessed. I KNOW IT! I don’t want to hear that they are only young once. I don’t need to hear the old lady in the grocery store tell me to ENJOY IT because THEY GROW SO FAST! I KNOW!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t need to hear these clichés. I want reason. Sometimes, we just need a reason to keep on dancing. To try and get it right. Here it is.

I understand that this usually happens when the child is going through a stage. She needs more holding because of the changes in her life. She is getting dropped off at school now. She is starting to potty train. She is a “big girl” now and she wants to be, but I think she also wants to be my baby. She is going through an internal struggle that she isn’t even aware of and it is my job to help her navigate through it by being there for her; her rock.

As she struggles and whines, I need to remember that life has changed for her and she isn’t always going to be on my hip, where she wants to be. I need to help her understand that I will always be her mommy so that she can feel confident enough to walk across the grassy lawn on her own, knowing that I will be behind her. I need to instill this confidence by taking the minute or 2 or 10 to hold her until she is confident enough to be put down.

It is hard on those long days. It is hard when my arms get tired of her 35 pound sturdy frame. But, as she struggles to hold on to her babyhood, I will TRY to lead her to the next step. Because I know life is a dance. As time moves forward, our dance will evolve, the moves will change, but the lyrics will always stay the same: “You will always be my baby,” and one day we will be right on cue.

This is the reason that I keep on dancing.

~Noreen Heffernan,Writer, MA in Public and Corporate Communications, Certified in PR Writer, Growing Ladies

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