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Rather Than Sitting It Out, My Daughter Chooses to Dance

Riley just turned sixteen this month. When she was four, my wife became pregnant. We would be adding a fourth to our threesome. I wanted to make something special for Riley, before her sister arrived. I was a Film Studies major in college and recorded everything those first years of Riley’s life.

So, I decided to create a video of her most memorable moments to Lee Ann Womack’s song, “I Hope You Dance”. Like most four-year olds, Riley just loved dancing. I had some incredible footage of her dancing at school, dancing in the living room, and even dancing naked on the living room coffee table.

“I Hope You Dance” became our song, mine and hers. It signified my hopes and dreams for her with lyrics like:

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder…

Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens…

Never settle for the path of least resistance…

When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider…

The one line that really strikes a chord with me is when Womack sings, “When you get the choice to sit it out or dance…dance.” I love that. It’s the way we should live life…no regrets. You can sit it out and be safe or you can take the risk, live life, and dance in front of everyone.

I am tickled that my daughter, Riley, has taken those lyrics to heart. I still remember a day I sat it out instead of danced, when I was six. My mom had taken me to a New York City summer day camp. I was nervous, and she promised me she would stay with me if I wanted her to, but that she just wanted to have me interact with the other kids.

I stayed by her side. She tried to convince me to play with the other children, to talk to that boy, to snack with that girl, but I was afraid. They looked like they were having fun, but I didn’t want to take the risk.

I don’t know how many hours it was, but I finally got up the nerve to approach another little boy to play with him, but it was time to leave. I couldn’t believe I had wasted all those hours hanging on to my mother’s skirt, and would never have the chance to interact with these kids who were having so much fun.

That was over forty years ago, and I still regret that I let my fear keep me from “dancing.” I use that experience to take risks in my life and face my fears, because I don’t want to live with more regret. And, over the years I’ve taught that to Riley as well.

I think me living a life of “dancing” rather than “sitting it out” has modeled the behavior for my daughter. Because, like all of us, she gets scared and nervous. She actually battles an anxiety disorder, but I watch her put herself out there, and take risks. I see that she wants to live life, even if she makes mistakes along the way, and she makes her Old Man so proud.

She started her own business when she was seven. At age eight she started a charity for pediatric cancer research raising over $25,000. She does great in school, is on the cheer team, and has a wildly successful YouTube channel.

Earlier this week Riley was notified that she was a top-30 finalist in the 2015 NYX Face Awards (a video make-up contest on YouTube). There were thousands of entries and she was the youngest to make it this far.

A few days ago I got to thinking of the young lady she had become and how she puts herself “out there” and takes risks. As a result, she lives life and doesn’t wait for it to come to her. As these thoughts bounced around my head, Lee Ann Womack’s familiar song came on the radio. And, as I listened to it as I was driving home from work, I realized at that precise moment, Riley was at her school, trying-out for the dance team.

Twelve years after I first told her I hope she’d dance, she had danced herself blue in the face figuratively and literally, and I couldn’t help but to tear up. I was proud of her.

If she made the team or not, I knew she was going to be okay in life, because she never sits it out. She always dances!

photo credit: hince via pixabay cc

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Leon Scott Baxter
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