See another section in Articles & Speeches

Dance, Mom

by Tara Leigh Emnett

This article originally appeared at Spike the Watercooler, a community for women to share uncensored advice on what it really means to be a woman in the 21st century.

I asked my 3-year old daughter tonight what she does when she’s having a rough day. While I have respected mentors, encouraging family, and two best friends who tell it to me straight, when I am having a particularly difficult time in my life, I turn to the person who will give me an answer that seems to say, “just when you thought you needed to overthink it, this is what you need to know,” and then out comes a one or two word answer, so profound and thought provoking, Ralph Waldo Emerson himself would be intimidated.

So when I asked her tonight during the regular bath time routine of bubbles and pretend water baking, she looked me straight in the eye and said “Dance, Mom.” Don’t be mistaken, my daughter is an anomaly in her own right, even doctors place her in a category all her own. I know this because I actually did take her to the doctor because she was so smart and mature, I started to wonder if I should be concerned. She can have a full blown coffee house conversation with even the most experienced Starbucks visitor and know exactly what she is talking about. She can distinguish between languages, remind me that I am stupid for calling an African Elephant simply an elephant, and put me in my place for improperly referring to “rungs” on a ladder as steps. Where she learned half of this stuff, I don’t know and I don’t care. Maybe she can use her Mensa skills to support me in my old age. The point is, she’s not incapable of complex conversation. So when she looks at me and tells me to “Dance, Mom” I see it as a message from the Almighty coming from the mouths of babes.

Since I’ve confronted this journey as a new business owner, embraced this role as a voice for women’s leadership, it seems I have a big target painted across my head that makes me constantly question if I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. There’s a very rebellious, shameless side of me that says “Go ahead, throw stones,” but the human side of me, which, I admit, I try to forget, can’t help but wonder why people aren’t just jumping on the bandwagon with me. And why the main culprits, women, feel the need to be the first in line casting those stones. Which unfortunately takes me back to high school, the last time in my life when I felt this awkward and alone.

I think, or at least I hope, we all have high school horror stories of feeling like the world was crumbling around us and nobody understood our hormone-infused windstorm of a life. Rarely ever do I hear someone saying, geez, I sure do wish I was that kid again. Maybe we want to be young again, we want to relive a life that is so far gone, but as a wiser, more mature version of our 17-year old selves. NEVER as the same kid.

But high school was particularly difficult for a free-spirited hippy who wore clothespins in her hair and didn’t really care what people thought of her. It’s not that people didn’t like me, in fact, I like to think I had some really cool friends. I just couldn’t ever establish a bond with another girl. They didn’t get me. I was preaching world change long before I took American Democracy in 12th grade while my peers were boy hunting and re-applying lipstick every chance they got. My affinity for preaching something bigger did nothing but make me more female enemies than allies.

Fast-forward 12 years, and I find myself discouraged, worn out, and beat down by some surprising reactions from female counterparts. At times, I want to make over the new conservative version of me and re-hippify, clothespins and all, and float flippidly through not allowing the negativity to get to me. The truth is, it got to me even then. And fueled a passion for women helping women that can only come from a life full of women hurting women.

So when my daughter told me to dance, she meant it. See, you don’t know my daughter, but I wish you did. Those who do leave changed, or my biased heart likes to think so. She literally dances into your life, uncoordinated, un-choreographed, naïve, and vulnerable, ready to offer this version of the world that is all about discovery, beauty in the unexpected, and faith in everyone and everything. She’s the little woman who reminds me that all of us, no matter what gender or age, have an inner ability to inspire and encourage if we just overcome human inhibition every now and then.

By accepting her three-year old challenge, I’m choosing to be a business owner, a passionate writer, an activist, a movement for change, despite someone’s desire to kick me when I’m down. It’s all about finding our tune, knowing we don’t ever need to apologize when the beat is right.

And the new tune I’m dancing to is Taylor Swift’s “Mean” on repeat…at least three hours out of everyday. Excuse me while I return to my headphones to continue my off key renegade.


Image from


This article originally appeared at Spike the Watercooler, a community for women to share uncensored advice on what it really means to be a woman in the 21st century.

Other features at from Spike the Watercooler:

  • The White House Report on Women: Three Surprising Insights

    Tara Leigh Emnett is a true Army wife, mother of a 3-year old, and ambitious professional. Originally from northwest Florida, she is currently stationed with her husband at Fort Rucker in the southeast corner of Alabama. She has worked in city and county government since 2006 and recently chose to branch out to pursue her love of politics, womens empowerment, and military quality of life issues. She is the very recent co-founder of Progressions Public Relations and Consulting (PPRC), LLC. She has a BA in English/Creative Writing and a MS in International Relations,.


  • home | what's new | resources | ask amy | news | activism | anti-violence
    events | marketplace | about us | e-mail us | join our mailing list

    ©1995-2012 All rights reserved.