Tonight, I watched my 6-year-old dance.
She heard the music playing in the kitchen while I was washing up the dinner dishes and came running excitedly. I usually partake in the dancing, at her request. But on this night, her movement strikes me. It holds me still in my place. And so I just stand back and watch.
Her long, lanky limbs are moving awkwardly in time to the movement. Her eyes close as her hips swing in grand, exaggerated movements in every direction. She opens her eyes and sticks her tongue out of the corner of her mouth in concentration while she wiggles her entire body goofily. A huge grin breaks across her face as her eyes connect with mine. Her head bobs back and forth as she giggles, her hair whipping wildly around her.
There is pure joy in her face. There is a complete lack of embarrassment in her movement. She is free from any self-consciousness. She doesn't even know the feeling yet. Hasn't experienced it in her six years.
It is beautiful to watch.
I wonder how many more years she will dance this way. How many more years she will have this freedom within her. This lack of inhibition before childhood inevitably catches up with her. There will likely come a time in her life when she worries about what she wears. When she stands with a group of friends, tucking her hair behind her ear in a nervous gesture, unsure of herself. When she cares what her friends think of her outfit. Or will notice when someone laughs at her.
But for now, she dances.
"Mommy, look!" she smiles and points to her baby sister who has come to join us. Her chubby baby arms flap up and down. She understands that we are dancing -- she turns in little circles and claps her hands. She moves like a baby. It's cute. She hasn't graduated to her bigger sister's style of movement yet. Her 6-year-old sister feels the music. She's interested in how her body moves. Almost can't help herself when the music comes on.
I think of myself while I watch my daughter dance. I am very aware of how I look to others. I try not to make too many comparisons to other women -- but I sometimes worry about being judged and disliked. I can't remember when I stopped dancing goofily, without inhibition. I don't remember being blissfully unaware of my silliness. There's only a finite amount of time for pure innocence in one's life - and I can't remember mine.
There's a time for getting excited about the simple things. Like the prospect of collecting rocks at the beach. There's a time for jumping up and down excitedly because your Mom has come to visit your classroom. And there's a time for growing up and learning who you are. For developing your own sense of self. There will come a time when my daughter no longer dances awkwardly.
So, for now, I watch as much as I can. I absorb it all. I allow every sense to capture this moment and keep it locked away until I need to remember this again.
And then I join in.
I close my eyes and feel my legs moving awkwardly. I shake my bum and listen to my daughter erupt into laughter. I start laughing with her. I laugh and laugh until my sides hurt. Because the moment is so perfect. I know it will be fleeting, but right now it is so perfect.
I allow myself to be silly. I allow myself to take the experience with me -- just as I take her hands. I let it whip me around, making me dizzy from the twirling. Our hands are pulled apart and I stop for a moment.
I feel the breath sucked out of my lungs for a second. I feel goosebumps on my arms.
I stand back and watch her. And it is beautiful.