He was late for our first dance. I had a big red circle on the calendar, June 27th. But he came in his own good time~~ July 10th, two weeks late.
Okay baby, you called the shots on the first dance. But from now on, I lead and you follow. Understood?
There was no scheduling this baby. He cried for eight hours at a crack, relentlessly. Sleep came in short snatches, after which he would jerk awake as though startled. Then the crying would begin again.
My orderly world of regular mealtimes, regular wake-up and bed times, regular play times~~~was turned to chaos. The days marched on without a predictable rhythm. I could not even name the day of the week because they were all alike.
Dance? Let's just focus on survival.
After 3 months, things got better. The crying ceased. But sleep never came easy and there were often night terrors when it did come.
May I teach you to dance now?
The boy loved books from the first. His first word was "jackdaw." We don't have jackdaws around here, but he liked to look at the picture in the English bird book. The word was not spoken in the usual sense. It hurtled forth from his mouth like a small cannonball; it was a joyful mini-explosion. The cannonball flew straight to my heart. To share the joy of finding your voice, to share a pure delight in words and language~~ can there be anything richer?
You and I are going to make great partners.
I read, you read, we talk. Repeat.
How many times have those dance steps been repeated the past dozen years?
Wait~~what was that extra little twist you threw in ?
I assign Churchill. Read about King Edward. Write a report. Check.
Stiff, dutiful dance steps.
Then he is off on his own, devouring Charles Coffin's account of the Revolutionary War, Henty's fictional tale of Robert the Bruce, learning about DNA from Michael Crichton.
I'm out of breath! I can't keep up with you!
After 13 years, the boy still cannot sleep. He is required to take his place at the family breakfast table, regardless. There are often dark circles under his eyes.
I see the light under the crack of his door at 3:00 a.m. It behooves me to investigate. The computer is on (no internet access). There are 100 neatly typed pages on the Word program. On the floor there are papers strewn everywhere, along with the Legos. He's unrolled an old window shade to its full length and has used it for a scroll. In careful detail, he's created a world map of his own imagination. The typed pages catalogue the world's government, economic, and military systems. On the bulletin board he has pinned a series of pictographs which comprise the linguistics of his new "world."
"You should be in bed."
"I can't sleep, Mom."
No, he cannot sleep. He's giving birth.
I quietly close the door and go back to bed. I've been standing on holy ground, and I know it.
Who's leading this dance, anyway?
My desire for order and routine creates a tension in our dance; a necessary tension. That tension has exercised him, provided him with basic skills which have enabled him to create his own dance.
I won't be his partner much longer. But I will always be in the audience, applauding his steps.
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
by Sydney B. Carter