Have you ever watched an elderly couple on the dance floor? They separate and come together seamlessly. They respond to cues that no one else can see or sense. It looks so effortless, so smooth, so beautiful.
What we didn’t see was the hours and years of practice. They may have gone to dance classes initially together to learn the steps, but from then on, it’s just practice. And they have also shared a thousand moments and memories together as a couple. They’ve held each other in times of sorrow, buoyed each other up in moments of doubt, celebrated anniversaries and successes, and even cried tears of joy over births. Intimacy at home becomes intimacy on the dance floor. And this is the perfect metaphor for how our relationships with our children develops.
Developing a rhythm with your infant
Think back to the beautiful dance you developed with your daughter when she was an infant. When she looked at your face, you looked back. When she smiled, you did the same. When she laughed, you laughed right along with her. Babies elicit responses in their parents as much as parents elicit responses in them. It’s a beautiful thing to watch or experience; an infant and their parents in this delicate and tender dance; knowing when to coo and touch, and when to back off and let the baby gather themselves; when to lead the interaction and when to be led.
What a baby learns from this dance is essential to their physical, emotional and psychological well-being now and forever. This early relationship becomes the template for all future relationships.
The dance of intimacy with young children
Another place I see this dance played out is with toddlers. Watch a 2-year-old at a family gathering. They will sit on a parent’s lap looking scared and uncomfortable. And then they push off and go out to explore their world. Minutes later they come back to home base, aka mom or dad, for some hugs of reassurance that says “Yes, I’m here, I’ll always be here to welcome you back, and it’s okay to venture off because the world is an interesting and fun and safe place to explore. I’m always here if you need me.” This dance of connection and disconnection will play out over the course of our parenting lives, just like the elderly couple’s dancing.
5th graders who don’t want you to walk them to the bus stop anymore will also want to cuddle with you on the couch watching a movie. Teens who seem to constantly want to be with their friends revert back to that “little kid I used to know” when you are all together on a family vacation. Again, it’s the dance of going away and then coming back.
Devices interfere with intimacy and trust
I worry today about the costs of young people being so plugged into electronics 24/7. When so much of your interactions with people are through screens, you miss out on nonverbal cues like facial twitches, raised eyebrows, shifts in someone’s posture and facial expressions. You miss hearing different tones of voice and sensing the other person’s feelings. You can’t really experience that magical back and forth rhythm that is so necessary for true intimacy and trust.
Deepen connections during the holidays
For the upcoming holiday season, I encourage your family to set intentions for uninterrupted time together with no smart phones and social media so you can connect at deeper levels. Your relationship with each of your children has its own unique dance playing to its own special music. You need one on one time to develop deeper connections with each other.
Our elderly couple has accumulated thousands of little moments of connection and intimacy, thus allowing them to be so attuned to each other’s needs, feelings, and rhythms. That is the key to their incredible dance and will be for each and every one of your relationships.
A great way to connect with your family is by sharing deeper than normal with our Dinner Dialogue cards. Get a box today and start learning things about your family that you never knew.