Illustration by Leen

“Satan Invented Dancing.” Says My Five-Year Old

My son still goes to the “only right church.” The one I left.

The one I grew up in.

The one that says dancing is wrong. It can “lead you astray” and is only a way to “celebrate the world” and takes place in situations that “aren’t the right place for a child of God…”

I heard this growing up in sermon after sermon. Yet I still danced. Some of my best moves were to Huey Lewis, Madonna, The Bangles. I would shut the door of my room and get down. Music was okay in my family. My mom was a reformed hippy, and held her faith very close — but I could always sense an undercurrent of wild in her. Still can.

Once I came home from school and found her sitting in front of one of our huge wooden-framed speakers (the old-school kind that were like furniture). The song “My Name Is Luca” was blaring, and she just sat and was rocking slightly.

I met my ex through the church. My son’s dad. He still goes, or pretends to go, or goes to spite me, or goes to maintain his family and social relationships… Honestly I’m not sure why he goes, but he does.

The reason I’m not sure is that when we were married, he’d sort of scoff at it. Make fun of it in small ways, say things that made me (a devout believer, at the time) widen my eyes at his boldness.

So he takes my son to this place, which I hate but I have no control over, and from what I gather tells him stories of fire and brimstone — which my son eats up. He actually likes to be scared, he always asks me to tell him legitimately scary stories before bed.

And kids pick up everything, little sea sponges.

This concerns me greatly, but again I have no control over what his dad does. I just hear it all second-hand, and it jabs me in the heart every time. It’s what I heard, nearly verbatim. The brainwashing.

Tonight it was out of the blue. We were seated side by side, me eating my salad, my son eating some mac and cheese, when he announced:

“So, dancing was invented by Satan.”

“What? Who told you that?” I reply.

“Dad. He knows it. And church said it.”

“AUGHHH!” I sigh, exasperatedly. “That is so frustrating.” Head in my hand, forking my romaine angrily with my other hand.

“Why is that frustrating, Mom?” My little angel says.

I sigh, bite my lip, trying to think of the best way to convey this to a five-year-old but my temper seething beneath my mostly-calm exterior.

“Because it’s not… TRUE! That church is… crazy.” I say, sort of regretting having used that word but at a loss for words in general.

We continue talking for a bit, me explaining that very few churches in the world would say it’s not okay to dance. I reminded him of the illustration he’d seen me create recently and how maybe only one of those churches would say it’s not okay to dance, but that the Bible says — should one choose to believe in or read it — that dancing is done by many of the people / prophets / saints whatever the people are called IN THE BIBLE.

After we eat, I have a great idea and pull up some verses online from the King James Version, which is what that church uses exclusively, and read them out loud.

Ones like this:

Ecclesiastes 3:4 — A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

Psalms 150:4 — Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

Psalms 30:11 — Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;

My son interrupted me midway into the third or fourth one.

“Ok, I believe that. Let’s have a dance party. This is all making me want to dance!” He said with a sort of gleeful giggle.

[Me thinking well that was easy, what’s the catch?]

So, we did.

I know that this will come up again. And one day he may even choose to follow the church alongside his dad; and that slays me.

I can only provide an alternate option. A different viewpoint. I can only let him know that he has freedom to choose. I can share what I believe. What I don’t believe. For cripes sake, what I don’t know. All of which is so far from from what I was offered or taught as a child, where it was one way: This Church or Hell.

But it gives me hope that he finds pleasure in dancing, and dancing together has been something we have done since he was very little.

I told him that it made me a little sad to think that he would have to be concerned that dancing isn’t okay. I told him how I hadn’t been allowed to when I was younger, but I loved to, and sometimes I would lip sync to Madonna songs and dance in my room.

He thought for a minute and said, “Well, I bet you’re happy now!”

“Why do you think that?”

“Because now you can dance!”

Yes, dear boy. I can.

Agnostic. Cancer survivor. Divorce survivor. Proud single mom. Freelance designer + illustrator. Stubborn optimist. Finding my new path.