When I was a kid, I took Polynesian dance lessons.
I stopped as a preteen when life became busy with other things (Busy: Ha! Clearly I was not yet a parent). And I took up hula and Tahitian dancing again as a college student and early in my marriage before kids. Not performing on stage or anything. Just lessons once a week with some senior citizens.
The lessons stopped once I was pregnant with my now 7-year-old son. Because that’s what adults do, right? Stop focusing on themselves, and put the attention on the kids. Always playdates. Teaching them the alphabet and potty training. Then come their classes. Dance. Martial arts. Sports. Even on Mother’s Day!
There’s a reason most people at adult recreation classes are retired with grown children.
But, a couple of months ago I heard about this local dance competition for charity. A “Dancing With the Stars” in the small city I work in. I’m the spokesperson for the city, which makes me star enough to take part in something like this.
At first, I joked about taking part. Then, I decided to for real. I wanted to get back on stage. I missed hula, and why should my kids have all the fun? That simple act of self care, taking part in a dance competition, would be far more important than I understood at first. Because taking care of ourselves is not only good of us, it’s good for our kids.
I found a local hula instructor. Her husband had died six months ago, and her group hadn’t gotten together since. But when she heard about the contest and that I needed her help, she graciously stepped in. The dance group regrouped, greeting each other with warm smiles and wet eyes.
We practiced and practiced some more, while my busy, wonderful husband fed, bathed and tucked in our kids. At first, I was so stiff and rusty. But soon, the joints loosened up and the Aloha was back in my hands and hips and heart.
The work, school, daycare and kid recreation stuff didn’t go anywhere. We kept it up, just tired even more tired than usual.
A few weeks ago, I stepped on stage in front of several hundred people and performed. To be honest, I wasn’t even that nervous. I knew my stuff.
My husband and kids were there, watching me. They loved to see “Momoana” (like a mom Moana, get it? My husband’s joke. I can’t take credit.) on stage. My daughter practically ripped my plastic grass skirt off beforehand from clutching it so hard. My son, who loves to perform and has started beginning acting classes, was mesmerized by the whole show and especially his mom under the bright lights.
I was showing them that what they’re doing now: their dance and theater classes, their martial arts, their schoolwork, it matters and will continue to matter throughout their life. Those activities don’t have to be limited to childhood. These hobbies and activities are part of who we are. I believe the best kind of self care isn’t just a hot bath or some solo coffee, but taking time to maintain our personal passions beyond parenthood.
In addition, taking time for ourselves helps us feel more refreshed and ready to tackle the daily trials of parenthood. Playing with Barbies and stopping fights is OK and all, but it’s not always terribly fulfilling. There’s a reason they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first if there’s plane trouble. We need to be in good shape ourselves to care for our kids because raising human beings is no easy task.
The good that came from my dance contest was more than just personal reward. In all, I raised close to $1,400 for our local Boys and Girls Club, and made memories to last a lifetime. I didn’t win the competition, but I won at life that night, ya know?
My takeaway is, If there’s something we want to do and it’s not hurting anyone, we should do it. Don’t wait to water the flower of you until the kids are long out of the house. Let’s water ourselves now and grow into whole damn flower bushes with plenty of blooms for our kids and everyone else to enjoy.
If you aren’t already practicing self-care, use this Mother’s Day as an excuse to start! Your family will thank you for it!