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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Valentine

Room for More

I think when you work really hard and you help others, God helps you get what you want.

Gina Rodriguez

This may sound like the most ludicrous statement coming from a single parent, but one of the true secrets of success is in addition to your own, find someone else’s children to care for. You may be thinking that this would be the last thing on earth you expected to hear from me, but hear me out. I’m not suggesting you adopt or foster additional children, unless that is an option for you. I am talking about being a blessing to children by mentoring, teaching or encouraging them.

For the last 20 years I have been teaching dance at my church. We started with an adult dance ministry. I joined when my youngest was about 3 years old. Then we got 3 precious little ladies in the troupe. The youngest was in the 2nd grade. The fellas had to come with me when we had practice so they would entertain themselves while I worked with the girls. It was an easy way to get my girl fix. I thought this was going to be a good way for me to transfer some of my training to the next generation since I had been dancing for the majority of my life. There are two things I learned very quickly about working with girls. They can be moody and emotional. UGH. I was not used to that. We would have 2 – 3 hour practices to get a 3 minute routine right. The cajoling, convincing and encouraging I had to do with them caused me to have a new appreciation for my guys. I just didn’t have to work as hard at home.

This is not the type of dance troupe that you audition for. This is the type that is welcoming if you have a willing heart and can put in some hard work. This means I have had a few girls who were challenged in the rhythm, movement and attitude areas. The objective of having such a ministry is that dance became almost the least important part of what is going on. We start with circle time. We sit in a circle and talk about their week, what has been going on in school, and any concerns they may have. We get a scripture, read and discuss it. Then we get up to dance. I find that the circle time is my favorite because we get to share with each other. I have had girls who didn’t want to be there initially. One of my girls in particular used to stand very stoically while I was teaching the piece. Her mother insisted that she participate. I had to really use my best convincing skills, kissing and encouraging her to cooperate. We laugh about it now that she is a mother of two children, but it took some doing at the time.

The Valentine house rules applied to dance practice. The main one being they were not allowed to say the word can’t. I told them that a little switch goes off in your head when you say can’t that allows you to stop trying. When I show them a move and before trying someone says “I can’t do that,” I let out the most horrible scream. Then with the intensity of the wicked witch of the west I say “What did you SAY (my pretty!!!)?” They quickly remember that they weren’t supposed to say that. They can say I need help learning that or could you show it to me again or I am having trouble with that move. We gladly break down the steps and before long, they realize that they can. It is a great triumph for the success of the dance, but more importantly for the focus of the dancer. We don’t get heavily into the mechanics of dancing. We don’t name all of the turns or positions. There is a greater purpose involved. I am trying to give them another adult to trust, teach them how to express themselves in a productive way and to give them practice of being in front of a group of people, all the while expressing our appreciation for a great God.

The fellas were relieved when they were old enough stay home during dance practice. I always kiss everyone in the house before I leave, even if you are asleep. The guys would ask me in their sleeping stupor where I was going on Saturday morning. Once they heard the two words ‘dance practice’, they were happy to give me the compulsory kiss and drift back off to sleep.

We now also have a mime troupe that is comprised of guys ages 5 – 17. They are a huge amount of fun to work with! I would encourage you to find a youth cause that you can support while you are raising your children. It’s also a good idea to take your children to volunteer. This helps them realize the world doesn’t revolve around them. They will also understand the blessing of helping others which will serve them well throughout their life.

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