Obedience and Ballroom Dancing

I don’t think anyone would argue with the notion that in order to learn any new skill, you need to have the ability to be obedient. For example, if you want to learn how to do the fox trot, or tango, chances are you would register for classes and obey the instructor. You would do what the instructor told you to do because of your hope for the desired end result — knowing how to do the fox trot or the tango.By repeatedly obeying a series of instructions, you will have a new skill. It becomes a matter of cause and effect. The same holds true when we are learning how to drive, play a sport, or learning to operate your new computer or big screen TV.Obedience gets a little trickier in a variety of circumstances.

As a parent, I know I have to work hard in enforcing my expectation of obedience from my children. It is my hope and prayer I instill not just the habit of obedience, but the virtue of obedience. In my own home growing up, if I wasn’t obedient, there was a serious price to be paid.

So, from a very young age, I was taught that it was important to obey not just my mom, dad, dance instructors, teachers, principals, and employers, but it was also critical to prayerfully obey the Ten Commandments and Church teachings.

Obedience, as taught to me, was both a life skill and tool for salvation.

Just like many women, I went through a stage in my life where I came face to face with my inner Eve. I dared to cross the line, challenge, question and push the envelope. Disobedience, I learned can come with some adrenalin rushes and feelings of adventure, but in the end it is a gateway for many painful, confusing moments.

I have come to equate a life of obedience with a life of reverence and regard. I have also seen the fruits of obedience over the long haul, being prayerfully obedient really does pay off in the long run. It requires self mortification, but in my experience and from what I have seen, it’s worth the spiritual work involved.

Think about the good old days, when a teacher or employer could pretty much depend on a new student or employee to come into a new situation with the instilled habit of obedience. In today’s day and age, I have heard many employers and teachers say that there are droves of defiant  youth.

In some cases it’s wreaking plenty of chaos.

So today, at an elementary school ballroom dancing recital, I became quite philosophical. While I absolutely loved watching the boys and girls dance and to relate to one and other in such a dignified way, I was puzzled by many of the parents who were being flagrantly disobedient.

It was both maddening and heartbreaking.

At the beginning of the performance, the principal, who is a hard working Catholic educator and who has committed hundreds of extra hours to our school, made a simple request,

“Due to regulations of the Catholic Separate School Board, I would request that parents do not take any photographs, or videos of the children as they are performing. It is impossible, when  taking photographs and videos, to capture singularly your own child, please do not take any photographs or videos during the performance. With the extraordinary uses of the Internet, for child safety, we ask that no photographs or videos be taken.”

The request was emphasized by the ballroom dance instructor several times, “Please do not take photographs of the performers, the flashes are disruptive to an already nervous dancer.”

Well, low and behold, what do you think happened once the kids started dancing?

You got it, a couple of parents completely  disregarded the repeated requests from both the principal and the dance instructors.

After a few of the parents who were restraining themselves from taking pictures saw others openly defiant, they took heed and started taking pictures and videos too.

I was completely embarrassed watching the “if he can, I can”  mentality take over.

I am the daughter of two photographers, a scrapbooker. I absolutely love taking photographs. I have found the board policy unreasonable and trying at the best of times, but I have never had the gall to pull out my camera or video camcorder right after a formal request by a school principal, in an auditorium full to the brim.

I guess I do have remnants of my mother’s training still buried in my soul.

In fact today, I got mad at disobedience.

Dozens of thoughts floated through my mind. I beg your patience as I share them.

These very parents (taking the pictures) probably expect their children to obey them. In fact, if they themselves have employees, they probably expect their own employees to obey them too.

Don’t they have the common sense to know that obedience has to be modeled? Remember this, if your child or employee sees you disobeying rightful authority figures, they will most likely do the same.

Don’t be surprised when a cop comes knocking at your door to inform you that your son or daughter in trouble at school or work because they failed to listen to the rules. Or even worse, the habit of being disobedient was taken to the streets. They somehow ended up thinking that the rules of the road didn’t apply to them and ended up in a tragic accident caused by speeding.

Secondly, do you know how embarrassing it is for a child to have their parent blatantly disrespecting the school principal in front of hundreds of other students, the entire professional staff, dozens of parents and the instructors of an independant dance studio?

Or, even worse, maybe you have done it so often that your kids have begun to believe that being disrespectful is normal.

Shame on you for embarrassing your child. If you think your disobedience doesn’t have a reflection on your family — think again!

Thirdly, we have hardworking dedicated educators that have made countless sacrifices for the education of your child. I know the principal of the school in question goes beyond the extra mile. The school doesn’t have to have ballroom dancing, skiing, chess, drama and the countless other extra curricular activities for its students. Many professionals have dedicated hundreds of hours to give your child opportunities it would have otherwise not have had.

For goodness sake, can you obey the principal out of sheer respect? Please don’t ruin it for the rest of us. The school could conceivably cancel programs or simply not invite parents because of the belligerent lack of respect for the stresses faced by educators.

Besides, how many hundreds of photographs do you still have sitting on your hard drive? Do you really need one more? How often do you sit and watch every single video you have taken?

Surely, being a good role model for your kids, showing respect for the principal and for the rules and regulations which are trying to enforce the safety of all children is more important than a few digital images.

The school has a virtues program in place, with banners, assemblies, drama skits and lectures. It is trying to teach students some good moral habits, obedience is just one of them. The teachers need your help.



About Author

Dorothy Pilarski is a Catholic mother, writer, television personality, speaker and consultant. She appears on Mothering, Full of Grace, that airs on Salt + Light TV. Her columns appear frequently in the Catholic Register. Dorothy is the founder of Dynamic Women of Faith, an outreach ministry. Dorothy's newly published book, Motherhood Matters is getting rave reviews in /Catholic circles. The book challenges the current cultural model of motherhood and inspires readers through statistics, essays, quotes and prayers for Catholic moms. To find out what readers are saying visit Dorothy's blog, Gutsy Catholic Mom. Motherhood Matters is endorsed by Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, Elena Maria Vidal, Sister Ann Shields S.G.L., Donna Cooper O'Boyle, Lisa Hendey, Colleen Hammond and more.

  • Marcy K.

    Absolutely! It frustrates me when parents delibrately flout the rules – as if because they themselves are not the students, they don’t have to listen to the teacher. I know teachers think their students act much better then their parents. I think it is also part of our society that people think they can do whatever they want and if you don’t like it, tough. It is definitely why our society is the way it is: A lack of concern for others and basic rudeness. And it perpetuates from generation to generation.

  • Well, yes and no. As a longtime teacher myself, I can testify that docility is a key factor in academic success. Without it a student is his/her own worst enemy.

    On the other hand, however, disrespect trickles down in a society where the government, media, entertainment industry, and public educational establishment have gone a long way to forfeit the right to be respected. Take the putrid Presidential Administration currently in office. If Obama and Sec. of State Clinton use public tax revenues to finance diplomatic missions (backed by America’s very expensive military might) to pressure 3rd world countries into compromising their moral values against abortion, sodomy, etc. then how can such a government command our respect?

    All the way down to the municipal level the corruption engenders disrespect, extending even to petty matters like traffic laws. In my home town the city sets up speed traps galore, totally unrelated to public safety — their ostensible purpose — and makes from 1/4 to 1/3 of its revenues from that source. The latest money maker is photo enforced traffic lights.

    Kids hear their parents complain, or drive disrespectfully of arbitrary laws, and maybe they do draw immature conclusions from their parent’s example. But the source of the problem is that the powers-that-be no longer earn respect.

    Nor do they deserve it as per Romans 13. Government’s purpose, says St. Paul, is to punish evildoers and reward the good. In return we submit to their authority. But when government turns things upside down, punishing good and rewarding evildoing, then neither is the people’s submission obligatory. Right rule and submission are reciprocal.

  • Or as William Gladstone put it, “protection and subjection are reciprocal.”