Saturday, August 20, 2016

Moving Gracefully

I wrote a post last year on the difference a power pose made to one of my high school students.  Standing in an authoritative position made her immediately less apologetic, more authoritative, more confident and competent.

I LOVED this, and I believe that as women we should be using our body language to telegraph our pride in ourselves.  I'm always coaching my students to take up MORE physical space as they play. To own the room if they are soloing.  To act like musicians worth listening to.

However.

Zoe recently turned seven and started second grade.  She also hit a growth spurt - although she's still a tiny girl, and small for her age, she has suddenly begun to have the mass of a real human, rather than a fairy or a sprite, and when she crashes her body into mine it hurts, and when she bumps into things they fall over, and when she walks through the room the floor shakes.  Just like everybody else, but not like her first six years.

Suddenly I'm always having to remind her to slow down, to be mindful, and to move gently and gracefully through the world.

After all, grownups don't fling themselves down on furniture.  Everyone knocks things over now and then, but grownups try actively to avoid it, and are embarrassed when they do.  Big people don't intentionally smash into other big people just for fun or to show their love for each other.  And we're trying to raise a grownup, ultimately, aren't we?  Someone who occupies space in a way that doesn't impede others?

I remember my mother being ALL OVER ME about this when I was younger.  Sit down gently!  Don't crash around so!  Approach your chair like a lady!  Don't tilt backward at the dinner table! And I hated it.  Why should I have to change my approach to the world?  Why is "ladylike" the desired objective? Why isn't it OK to just be me?

Now that I am constantly on Zoe for this same thing, I kind of hate myself for it.  The individualist, and especially the feminist in me, is furious that I keep using those words, graceful and gentle.  Why should I be using these words, which smack of traditional femininity, to my daughter in the 21st century?  Why can't she just crash around like she wants?  Then I think about the possible future in which she never learns to be self aware, and I keep picking at her.

I seem to be trapped inside the verbiage I was taught as a child.  I don't actually think Zoe needs to be more feminine.  My god, she's already the girliest girl I know.  She just needs to be more careful and more responsible with herself.

So why is it that all of my middle school and high school female students need to be coached to be BIGGER and Zoe needs to be coached to be SMALLER?   Is there a point between now and ninth grade at which I'll need to start going the other way?  Will this take care of itself?  Can I be more hands-off and let her find her own way into her own body?

I'm genuinely asking.  I want Zoe to stand proudly in her own body, I want her to be powerful in her attitudes to the world, and I ALSO want her to be graceful and self-aware and stop hurting me and breaking things.  Am I being the problem?



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2 comments:

  1. If I may venture into an unfamiliar territory- child rearing-, it is possible that the brusqueness and casualness with which toddlers and a little older children cast themselves about is their lack of knowledge of distances. You know what will happen to you if you fall on your face. A two-year old also knows because she has fallen many times. It takes a little time to learn the effect of the force you exert when you trustingly, and with abandon throw yourself into a parent’s arms. And don’t forget that in our society all chairs and couches are cushioned!
    I wonder if your mother was really concerned about your future grace and elegance, and possibly thought that as a more edifying argument, rather that about your safety. She probably thought rightly that she may achieve two goals with one admonition. In you case she triumphed.
    Your suggestion to your students to fill their space with their physical presence is both splendid and necessary. Music inspires and prompts physical motion; it envelops the whole of our being and, almost unwillingly we move. You don’t think that march music was inspired by soldiers walking in rhythm, do you? And, of course you know better than I ,(and many others) that the creation of the art of dancing was the natural consequence of the desire of people to move with the music.
    Best wishes.
    Dimitri.

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  2. Thanks, Dimitri. I love that you read and comment!

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