“Your daughter’s not sick … she’s a dancer.”

In an earlier post, I talked about the book “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul”.

This is one of my favorite reads ever.  It has changed the way I look at my life, how I live my life and how I mother my children.

The following passage from the book sent shivers down my spine:

“When people know their core truths and live in accord with what I call their “play personality”, the result is always a life of incredible power and grace.  British educator Sir Ken Robinson has spoken about finding such power and grace in the life of dancer Gillian Lynne, who was the choreographer for the musicals Cats and Phantom of the Opera.  Robinson interviewed her for a book he is writing, titled Epiphany, about how people discover their path in life.  Lynne told him about growing up in 1930s Britain, about doing terribly in school because she was always fidgeting and never paid attention to lessons.  “I suppose that now people would say she had ADHD, but people didn’t know you could have that then,” Robinson says wryly.  “It wasn’t an available diagnosis at the time.”

Instead, school officials told Lynne’s parents that she was mentally disabled.  Lynne and her mother went to see a specialist, who talked to Gillian about school while the girl sat on her hands, trying not to fidget.  After twenty minutes, the doctor asked to speak to Lynne’s mother alone in the hallway.  As they were leaving the office, the doctor flipped on the radio, and when they were shut in the hallway the doctor pointed through the window back into the office.  “Look,” he said, and directed the mother’s attention to Gillian, who had gotten up and started moving to the music as soon as they left.  “Mrs. Lynne,” said the doctor, “your daughter’s not sick, she’s a dancer.”

The doctor recommended enrolling her daughter in dance school.  When Gillian got there she was delighted to find a whole room of people like herself, “people who had to move to think,” as Lynne explained it. 

“Here is  a woman who has helped put together some of the most successful musical productions in history, has given pleasure to millions, and is a multimillionarie,” Robinson says.  Of course if she were a child now, he adds, “someone would probably put her on drugs and tell her to calm down.”

Robinson’s story about Lynne was really about the strength and beauty of living in accordance with who she is – which for her meant living a life of motion and music.”

 

I found this passage inspiring not only for how I live my own life – to make sure that I’m living in accordance with who I am – but also for how I observe and encourage my own children. 

I have a 7 year old daughter who fluctuates between extreme shyness and extreme sass.  Her school reports always include lots of “must listen more”, “must focus more” etc etc.  In a recent report, her lead teacher commented: “Francesca brings her sense of humor to school with her each day.”  In that one comment, I knew that that teacher really “got” my daughter.   As a mother, it made me feel that my “comedian” was in very safe hands.

As parents, it’s tempting to curb our children’s natural instincts when they conflict with what society values.  As I watch my children grow and I read books like this, I realize that part of my role is to encourage their unique traits even if they do drive me crazy at times.  Sassyness in a 7 year old can drive a parent crazy but I know I’m going to love that quality in her when she’s a sassy 30 year old!  She’s actually a wonderful reminder for me to reconnect to my sassy self!

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2 thoughts on ““Your daughter’s not sick … she’s a dancer.”

  1. My son’s progress report also showed “does not move with purpose,” “unfocused,” etc. And of course those are what stood out to me at first. But there were other positive wonderful traits, which we made sure to tell him about instead. Sir Robinson has definitely put more tools in my Parenting box. Thanks for this post 🙂

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