Dance as if no one (or just your baby) is watching

When babies hit the 10-month mark, they enter a glorious phase that showcases their newfound mobility as well as their listening and social skills: the dancing phase.  Anytime they hear anything with a beat, whether it’s the music you listen to (my firstborn liked to rock out to Metallica), a toy, a television commercial, or the blender (like my friend’s baby), they start grooving to the music.  This can take various forms including rocking back and forth, swaying side-to-side, bopping the head up and down, bouncing in place, and pumping the fists.  Not even adults laughing will stop them.  In fact, it may even elicit a smile and encourage them to dance even more.

This dancing phase is adorable and highly entertaining.  Grab the video camera now because before you know it, this phase is gone.  Somewhere after 18 months old, they become less interested in dancing, and by the time they are 3 years old, they are downright self-conscious.  At least my kid was.  When my son turned 3 and a song came on that he wanted to dance to, he would yell “No! Don’t laugh!” at me or “Go there!” and point to the other room.  I guess children become aware of when adults are laughing at them instead of with them.  Now when he wants to dance, he’ll stand up but then take a sidelong glance at me to see if I’m watching.  I take the hint and leave the room so he can cut the rug in private.

I’m sure this will get even worse as he gets older, judging from the typical American parties and weddings I’ve attended.  At these events, people sit around, talk and refrain from dancing.  If some brave (or rip-roaring drunk) souls start to dance, it’s not often that others follow suit.  If they do, their movements are slight and timid, as if they are trying to draw the least amount of attention to themselves.  Usually they are off to the side gawking at the ones dancing.  Maybe it’s just the (lame) parties I’ve been invited to, but it seems that people are too self-conscious and embarrassed to really let go on the dance floor.  Perhaps they are afraid of being made fun of (I still hear references to that infamous Seinfeld episode where Elaine dances).  Of course there are exceptions, but generally Americans are a pretty lame dancing set.

In contrast, I remember a party I went to when I lived in Boston, given by the Brazilians who I worked in a restaurant with.  To this day, it goes down as one of the best parties I have ever been to, and not because of the free-flowing alcohol or the big slabs of meat on the grill.  When I arrived at the party, it was still relatively early in the evening, but the house was wall-to-wall packed with moving bodies.  Almost everybody there was dancing.  I was amazed that people were so uninhibited and dancing their hearts out, not because they were drunk but because they were celebrating life. We had similar parties when I lived abroad.  There’s nothing like getting a bunch of American/Canadian/Europeans aid workers together in a foreign land after a week of stressful work, add in some familiar dance music and a lot of alcohol to get a lively dance party going.

In other cultures, people embrace dancing and are more uninhibited on the dance floor than their American counterparts (after all, that great party I went to was a Brazilian party).  Dancing may be more ingrained in their culture or just something fun for them to do to let off some steam.  It was that way in Kenya, where I’ve seen Kenyans dancing on several occasions that is even remotely a cause for celebration – a wedding, parties, having visitors.  Dancing was more an extension of themselves rather than a skill that they were being judged for.

So if your baby is in the dancing phase, enjoy this wonderful time and take videos.  Or better yet, get up and dance along with your baby.  It’s a great way to let off some steam.