Goldilocks was quiet as we drove home from her dancing lesson. Subdued. Something was brewing inside her, and I decided to wait, and let it spill over when she was ready. Finally,it came. “Mom,” she said quietly, not looking up. “Do you think I’ll ever be good at dancing?” Now, Goldilocks is incredibly flexible and astoundingly musical. When music starts – any music – she simply cannot keep still. She has to move. And she does so with grace and joy.
“Yes, Darling. I think you were born to dance,” I said.
More silent brooding.
“I don’t think I want to go back to dancing,” she admitted at last.
We don’t have spare cash for extra murals. The money for this term’s dancing lessons had been carefully hoarded together since the beginning of the year, after months of pleading for dance lessons by both girls. We’d sacrificed to make this happen – we were glad to do so – and now, neither of them wanted to go back. Ever. She was miserable.
“Are you not enjoying dancing, my Love?” I asked gently.
“It’s not that!” she quickly answered. “I love it! I love the music, and the steps. I love the dances our teacher creates and I really love to dance.”
“What’s making you not want to go then? You’ve been pleading with me to let you go to dancing. Have you lost interest?”
Because I sit in the lessons, I knew there hadn’t been a specific incidence of meanness making her so miserable. But I also know that little girls can be incredibly cruel – subtly so – and devastate one another without thinking.
“It’s not that,” Goldilocks said slowly. Then it came out all at once. “It’s just that I haven’t been to lessons for two terms. I don’t know any of the steps. And I’m the oldest one there! Everyone else must surely think I’m an idiot, making mistakes all the time and being stuck with the younger classes.”
“If there was no one in the class, would you go?”
“Do you enjoy dancing?”
“I love it!”
“Do you know those other girls? Do you know what they’re thinking, what they’re like? Does it affect you at all any time besides that half hour a week in the school hall?”
“Well … no. I suppose not.”
I explained to her that the other girls are probably very nice young ladies with no idea how old Goldilocks is, and no interest in her achievement since they’re all focusing on getting it right themselves.
But aren’t we like that sometimes? We give up our dreams because of potentially unfounded fears of what others will think of us.
Who cares? So what if someone laughs at you. You’re doing something you love, aren’t you? Does it really matter, after all, if someone you don’t know and almost never see thinks less of you for something outside of your control, like how old you are or how often your mom takes you to dance class? Surely not! The truth is that those people probably have no interest in your concerns. If they think about you at all, in all likelihood it’s probably to admire your courage. But the truth is that people are so wrapped up in themselves, they’re probably not thinking about you at all. Are you deriding them in your mind? Do you think less of them because of their age or race or experience or circumstances? I didn’t think so.
I explained to my dear Goldilocks that she needed to decide what mattered more to her: the imagined derision of her dancing partners, or the dancing itself. I assured her I would respect and support her requirements, whatever they turned out to be. But I encouraged her not to give up her dream simply because she thought someone might laugh at her.
Someone might. Someone almost always does. Dreamers unintentionally set themselves up as targets of ridicule. But that doesn’t stop them from changing the world. Don’t let it stop you, either. The mockers are too small to matter, and you are too awesome to let them.