We try to dance every night.
It’s our little family ritual: most every night, the HBH (Hot Black Husband) sets to cranking up a tune on Toddler Radio and we bust our moves in the middle of the living room. I usually practice my latest Inner Latina steps from Monday’s Zumba class, while James ensures that he’s passing on a legacy of all things Michael Jackson.
Cancan, who’s three and a half, spins and jumps and wiggles his body into ways that I cannot even begin to dream of imitating. I tell you, I cannot mimic his sweet moves justice. I do not have the skills (nor perhaps an intrinsic rhythm of movement) to gyrate with such flawless ease.
And then there’s Frodo, the one and a half year old whose name is not actually paired with “Baggins,” but whose stature does bear an uncanny resemblance to a Hobbit, I suppose.
He moves, kind of. He spins a bit. But more than that, he sings as if our dance party depended on it.
His chin juts upward and his eyebrows furrow, one into the other – because y’all, he’s got Singer’s Brow. His eyebrows express what his insides are feeling when he sings the words.
And I should know: I do the same thing.
I spent a good portion of my life standing on risers for choir concerts. On our wedding day, I held the microphone with shaky fingers and sang to my husband before I walked down the aisle. I’m that person your car wants to land next to at a stop light, for the love of how I’m pounding the steering wheel and feeling all the feels to the bass beat of “Killing Me Softly.”
I am Lauryn Hill when I’m driving down the 580 in my Kia. Believe you me.
But let’s return to Frodo, the toddler who’s got a song on his heart: there’s one song he can’t stop singing. There’s one song I keep trying to get him not to sing but he’s hell bent on putting a smile on Mama’s face. There’s one song he always seems to insert into the situation when I’ve a) not had enough coffee, b) am dying for Dada to get home and spell R-E-L-I-E-F, c) am wanting to claw my way through the walls because this Parenthood Thing is hard, man, and d) have caught him in the act of thinking that toilet water is really, really fun and appropriate to play in, for the 30th time that hour.
The song? “Happy.”
He knows no other lyrics than that singularly repeated word that happens to appear no less than 57 times in Pharrell William’s now-famous song. But what he does know, he belts. He croons. And he repeats that one word over and over again until a genuine smile appears on every single human over the age of three in the room.
And it works, it really does. I want to stay mad and frustrated, and I want to feel justified in all those Woe is Me feelings of trying to maintain a balance between motherhood and self, my family and my writing.
But really, that’s no way to live.
I look at his smile and I hear the message behind his words. I hear his little voice, the string of words Baby seeks to put together so Mama might understand what’s going on in his little mind.
Then I say a big fat yes to his invitation to happy.
And it works like a charm, every time.
So tonite, do yourself a favor and crank up the radio. Dance: by yourself, with your roommates, your spouse, your children. Show the world your more than incredible moves. Sing loudly and furrow your brows and feel the music in the depths of your soul.
Then watch as tired frowns are turned upside down, and do it again and again and again night after night.
So, nightly dance parties: are you in? Singing: is it in your bones? Happy: are you so, so excited I just got this song stuck in your head? You’re welcome.