Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm Happy, I Know It, But Do I Really Have to Clap My Hands?

When it comes to public performance, Miss Mary is everything I am not. Entertaining, energetic and extremely musical, I’ve envied and admired her general enthusiasm for dramatic displays of song and dance ever since I enrolled my toddler in her weekly music class earlier this year. She sings beautifully, can find a perfectly formed macro rhythm in the simplest of songs and bounces around the studio with a vigor that I can only find after at least 18 cups of joe.

The kids in class love her weekly theatrics and completely surrender to her invitation to be goofy, wiggly songbirds. If only I could do the same.

“Jeremiah’s mommy is not dancing!!” Mary bellowed last week as I did what I usually do during those painful 45-minute sessions – hid in a corner and tried desperately to just simply blend in. A scarf and tambourine were sarcastically thrust in my direction as I was shoved onto the caboose of an invisible choo-choo train.

Apparently, mommies and daddies who refuse to participate or chatter during what is proudly promoted as a “together” class, are forced to do a solo belly dance in the middle of a communal circle after their third warning. So far, I have two strikes.

“Wake up your mouth!”

Really? Without hardly any coaxing, more than a dozen moms (and sometimes a dad) willingly blow raspberries with their two-year-olds. In public.

“Turn on your ears!”

Everybody emphatically complies by dramatically yanking on their earlobes and screwing on an imaginary thinking cap. I pretend like I’m fixing an earring.

“Now warm up those voices: Ba, ba ba, ding-a-ding-ding!”

This is where I draw the line. When I was in grammar school and not at all aware that I was completely tone deaf, I used to sing – buy my parents always asked me to stop. When Erin and then Jeremiah were born and lullabies were in order, my husband lovingly told me that we should probably protect our children from unnecessarily off-key verses of Rock-a-Bye-Baby. (And the Eagles – nothing put those kids to sleep like a couple of verses of Hotel California.)

But now, after enrolling in 10 weeks of hello songs and itsy-bitsy dramatics, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to avoid active participation. I’m happy, I know it, but do I really have to clap my hands in front of all these other unnaturally giddy people?

If you’re not familiar with Music Together, it’s a program of weekly music and movement classes designed to educate infants, toddlers and preschoolers about basic premises of rhythm, harmony and social sharing. I did it with Erin and thought it would be a good way to bond with Jeremiah and prepare him for pre-school. I just forgot how much singing and jumping was actually involved.

“Jump, mommies, jump!”

She can’t be serious.

“Now everybody skip!!!”

I wonder if it’s really possible to die of embarrassment.

For Jeremiah, who completely adores all of this mandatory vocalizing, Wednesdays are now the best days of the week. For me, who has trouble letting loose and getting down in front of 15 other sing-songy adults, this class has been like high school –
I’m doing everything in my power to just look cool.

I suppose it sounds petty – putting my own crazy anxiety before Jeremiah’s enjoyment – but I’ve actually chosen my biggest fear – performing in front of other people – as a way of bonding with my son.

But today, halfway through this awkward semester, amidst all of my inane insecurities, something strange happened. For a brief second, as I watched Jerry giggling and vividly clapping his hands, I actually forgot about my stinky voice, forgot about how that one lady always has whiter socks than me and forgot about how other people were probably judging my stupid wiggly dance moves. And I actually started to dance and sing before Mary threatened me with solo belly dances.

Jeremiah grabbed my hands and we jumped on the invisible choo-choo together. I even continued the performance at home. For me and all of my lackluster tendencies, it was the most awesome of breakthroughs. Even Mary had to stop and applaud.

No solo bellydance necessary.