Kids need encouragement to play to their strengths
When I was a kid, I loved watching all the old movies.
I can remember precisely the day that I asked my mother for a pair of black and white wing-tip shoes so that I could learn to dance like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.
Turns out those shoes, even at that time, were very much out of fashion and hard to find, so I never got them.
It didn’t matter because it wasn’t the shoes I was drawn to, it was the dancing - I loved it and I fancied myself as a famous tap dancer.
Unfortunately, where we lived dance classes weren’t exactly around every corner and I ended up doing Irish dancing instead – not the cool River Dance kind - a lighter form called figure dancing.
I loved it all the same, but I can still remember one or two snide remarks about a boy dancing and ‘prancing around like a pansy’.
Fast-forward 25 years to today and my three-year-old son Jagger has become obsessed with doing ballet. Ever since we took him to see Swan Lake on Ice, he’s got the bug.
He’s now attended a couple of lessons and loves it.
The same can’t be said, however, for a number of people who I’ve talked to about his dancing. Some have frowned a little at the idea of a boy getting ballet lessons. And they took me by surprise.
‘It’s a bit gay’ was one remark I heard. I hate hearing prejudice and backward statements like that, it goes against everything I believe in.
Hearing it was a sudden jolt for me; it reminded me that even though 25 years have passed since my dancing days, opinions and views about sexuality are still a long way from being open and equal.
I watched a movie called A Single Man where the main character (played by Colin Firth) is a college professor who talked about people’s fear of what he called ‘an invisible minority’.
Since the movie was set in 1962, he was referring to the very conservative views about sexuality that still prevailed at that time. Obviously there have been great advances since then, but I wonder to what extent. Will there always be people out there who fear difference?
I can remember a lady years ago mentioning to her young child that she wasn’t to be friends with a Jehovah’s Witness kid in her school.
Her rationale was to protect her child from being inducted into the Jehovah Witness faith. Come on - that’s nuts! - these are five-year-old kids I’m talking about.
At that age they’re more interested in dress-ups and creative play than discussing the strengths of each other’s faith. Even when I lived in Africa, there were those who frowned about white kids playing with native African kids – why? It doesn’t make any sense.
As the old saying goes, it’s our differences that make us unique.
If my son wants to take ballet and I can provide that for him, of course I will.
It’s an amazing art, incredible for a child’s coordination, strength and as for what sort of person he develops into – well, studying dance will only make him a dancer, the rest will reveal itself in its own way and in its own time.
Either way, I’ll always be proud of him. Isn’t that the job of a parent, to empower children with knowledge and values so they can see the world with unbiased and fair eyes?
Everyone always talks about what we pass onto the next generation, our kids.
One thing is for certain, no matter what colour, race, religion or sexuality you are - you are what you are and nothing will ever change that.
Accepting and embracing differences is definitely something worth passing on.
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