“When a child is born, a father is born …” – Frederick Buechner
Children learn from what we do, not what we say. I admire the dedication of the modern father, ferrying his kids to soccer, piano, karate and tennis; but it makes me sad to hear in conversation that the same father has given up his own activities of youth. “I used to …” is one of my least favourite phrases. Why give up on learning and discovering new things to love?
I’d like my boys to be open to new experiences, and I’d be worse than a hypocrite if I wasn’t to lead by example. That’s the main reason that I find myself at a South Indian Dance class on a Saturday afternoon, trying to find my inner dancer. This is outside my comfort zone. The teacher Imdad is super nice but the moves aren’t easy and the other students are half my age. And a few minutes into the class, my neck does something I am sure it wasn’t supposed to do.
But it’s fun! Pushing yourself is energizing in more ways than one. I am sure Imdad is exaggerating when he says I am “killing it”, but I know I’m getting better every week. Not that I consider myself a “dancer”, but after a few weeks I have an epiphany – I am not “not a dancer” either. Fathers can dance too!
Being a father is a beautiful thing – there is always an audience to appreciate you. My boys don’t actually watch me dance, but they are used to having a Baba who gives things a go. They think it’s funny to see me practising in the living room or to walk on my back to get rid of the soreness. Kids are very sensitive to their parents’ lives. They soak in a lot of things that are never said. I hope they will be curious, open-minded and fearless; and their starting point will always be what they saw in their own home.
Besides, now there’s a nice symmetry to the father-son relationship – I am proud of them and they can also be proud of me. The boys are the first to see my end-of-term video. It does them great good to see that their father is on the same learning curve of life.
Age is not really an issue. Life doesn’t really get in the way. It much more likely that we get in our own way. There is no law of nature that says fathers don’t dance. Fatherhood should not be a narrowing of life – it should be a flourishing, and the dance floor is as good a place as any for that. Next Saturday, drop your kids to soccer and head down to the studio – I’ll see you there.
14 May 2019
(Check out Shourov and fellow father Suresh, in their ‘Marana Mass’ dance video 🙂