The grumpiest, gloomiest face I’d ever seen greeted me at the end of the school day.
I hadn’t recognized the teacher who’d walked his group out. Another new one. Someone he didn’t know. And it was the one after school activity we’d both been nervous about, although for different reasons.
“So? How was it?”
In the middle of the parking lot, he hung his head and refused to talk to me.
As we walked to the car, I chattered, desperately searching for some topic that would pique his interest and get him to open up. I looked down. Tears were streaming down his grubby face.
“What’s wrong, Sean?”
“I hated dance club! It wasn’t fun at all!” His tone was accusatory, as though I’d twisted his arm and forced him to go.
I’ve learned over the past few years that the more I respond, the less he says. I squeezed in hand, a quiet condolence.
“She’s a kindergarten teacher! I had to follow kindergarten rules.”
His voice was thick with the injustice of a first-grader lowering himself to behave like a “little” kid.
“What kind of rules?”
Sniffle. Snuffle. “I had to sit criss-cross applesauce! My teacher doesn’t make me do that. Only babies have to sit that way!” he wailed.
“I’m…sorry.” Sometimes, you just don’t know the right words. “Did anything else happen?”
This is the part I should have been prepared for. I knew, better than he did, what he’d signed up for by joining the dance “club” at school. Sure, they were all between the ages of five and seven, but there were expectations. Apparently, big ones.
“Yes!” He spat the word out, the disgust emanating from his tall, thin body. “It was mostly girls.” I’d warned him that would happen. He hadn’t believed me.
I squeezed his hand again. It was all the encouragement he needed. “And I couldn’t do my own dance. I had to do the stupid dance everyone else was doing.”
There was the real injustice. My free-spirit child (who keeps it all tightly locked away) had hoped, beyond hope, for a moment to do his own thing, to let the music move him, to be as different and unique as he felt like being.
He had no opportunity to be silly and crazy or make everyone laugh. Nope, he had to color in the lines, follow the rules, and be like everyone else. He hates that.
I wish I could make him understand that being one of two boys in a group of girls in order to dance automatically means he’s coloring outside the lines. All he knows is that he’s facing criss-cross applesauce, a gaggle of girls, and being “just like everyone else” in the group for the rest of the school year. It was the worst day ever.