Because I said so…

HappyStPatricksDaybyGubGibSo it was St. Patrick’s Day recently.  This was always a big deal in our house when I was a kid.   My mom emigrated from Ireland when she was almost ten, & has always been proud of her heritage. We didn’t go all shamrock-crazy on March 17th, but we definitely all wore our green every year, and proudly. 

But we were Irish all year long, too, and in many ways.  For example, my oldest sister is named Maureen, & my next oldest sister is named Kathleen.  My dad put his foot down when I came along & insisted on an “American” name.  This is how I came to be named Susan, which is what they named every other little girl in the 50s.  (I was born in the 70s, of course, when every other little girl was named Jennifer, but my folks have never been much for fashion.  I feel this explains a great deal about my persistent lack of ability to march in step with my generation.)

GreenHatbyLamneeI was in elementary school before I realized that here in America, you pronounce the letter H like “aitch”, not “haitch” as my mother insisted.  I still pronounce the H in “wh” words like “what” and “where.”  Back in Dublin, my mother’s teachers used to hold up a piece of paper to children’s lips to make sure it moved when they said “wh” words.  If it didn’t move, you weren’t blowing hard enough.  Evidently, that’s a personal preference thing here in America, so my teachers couldn’t technically say I was wrong to do so.  My mother smirked & continued making sure that her children, anyway, would be speaking properly.       

My two older sisters began Irish dancing lessons at about five or six, at a bar in Detroit on Saturday mornings.  This is where they often teach Irish dancing, for the big, wooden floor space.  Also, going to the bar is more of a family thing over in Ireland, so nobody blinks at taking the kids there for dance class.  I remember sitting on the swivel seats up high at the bar, watching my sisters do their thing.  I couldn’t wait for my turn.  

danceshoesUnfortunately, we moved when I was about six, so far outside the city that a Saturday morning trip to the bar–even for dance class–became impractical.  I had to settle for ballet, like any other kid.  But when I found myself planted here in St. Paul, MN, as an adult–a very Irish city, indeed–Irish dance again became a possibility.  

So I signed up for classes shortly after finishing up my MBA as a young married.  Within six months, I was pregnant with child #1.  I stopped bouncing for a while.  When Child #1 was three, I signed her up for her first step class, & signed myself up as well.  I immediately became pregnant with child #2.  Child #1 wasn’t crazy about the noise of Irish step dancing anyway, so we both quit.

WaitingWhen child #2 was maybe 4, I found a new school & signed us all up again.  We all hung in there for a year or two, but then Mr. Sey’s work schedule became insane (it still is) and my class had to fall by the way side.  I concentrated on just getting the girls to and from their Irish dance class, plus all the other extracurriculars that came along.  I figured I’d get back to my own dancing in good time.  I was at the studio all the time anyway, right? 

Fast forward three more years & I’m still not dancing.  My girls, however, just did their first St. Patrick’s Day show with their dance school’s performance team, & both of them are crazy hooked on Irish dancing.  They’ve moved far beyond what I’d managed to learn before I quit class yet again, & I have to admit it:  when I saw them performing on St. Patrick’s Day I was jealous.  I was incredibly proud of them, yes, but I also realized that I was deeply jealous.  The whole reason they began taking Irish dance wasn’t because they’d expressed a huge interest.  It was because I wanted to take Irish dance.  And now they’ve blown by me & I still want to learn how to do what they now know in their sleep.  

Feis--C reelSo I have resolved that this summer I’m going to sign up for my dance class again.  The slow, beginner, mommy version of the reels & jigs, the hornpipes & treble jigs that my girls rip off like nobody’s business.  I’m going to do it just for me, for the pleasure of learning something I always wanted to learn.  And also to teach my girls that it’s never too late to try something new, even if it makes you look ridiculous.  Maybe even because it makes you look ridiculous.  Dignity is overrated.  If you love it, you should try it.  

So what about you?  Is there something you’ve always wanted to try or learn or do?  Or is there something you gave your kids–lessons, experiences, classes–simply because you always wanted a chance but never got it?  Or is this something your parents did to you–forced a class or a sport on you that you hated, because they loved it?  Tell us about it! 

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  • flchen1 says:

    How very cool, Susan! I always loved watching Irish dancing (went to a Catholic school as a kid, and had many talented Irish classmates 😉 ) and wouldn’t mind trying it, but I do think it’s quite difficult and I imagine it is highly aerobic 😀 As for me, I got piano lessons, which I eventually came to appreciate. I’d desperately wanted ballet lessons, which I eventually got to start in college. Among the list of things we made sure the kids at least tried: piano (still all taking lessons); Chinese (no longer taking lessons–odd, they all hated it 😉 ); sports (DS2 has taken to that like a duck to water…); dance… I hope they realize at some point how very blessed they are to have so many opportunities!

    • Susan Sey says:

      Fedora, you took ballet in college? That is so cool! I was in the first generation on either side of the family to graduate from college, and in retrospect I guess I felt a lot of pressure to succeed. So much so that apparently I sort of forgot that the whole point was to expose my mind to new thoughts & experiences. I only took classes I knew I could be successful in & went to the library. It never crossed my mind to take a class just because I’d always wanted to know about that subject. I view this now as one of the biggest missed opportunities of my life. I hope I can convince my kids to take more risks with their educations.

      • flchen1 says:

        Susan, thankfully my parents are both college grads, so that level of pressure was removed, but I did take a ton of classes because I thought it was the right thing to do to end up with a “good major” that would lead to a “good job”–I already see some of this seeping down to my kids, so I do want to balance that with some counsel on finding one’s joy, too 🙂 Ballet was the class I took for me (I’d wanted to do that for years before I got to college, and there it would count as P.E. so WIN!) and the funny thing is that of all the things I took in college, that’s probably the one that I still love and do. (Except English, I suppose, which yes, I do use every day as well as while editing!) Hmm…

  • Amy Conley says:

    Susan you are one very brave woman.
    i want to get my degree, even if it’s just an Associate’s Degree, I want it. My aunt is 74 and has 1 class before she earns her Master’s, with a 4.0 and honors. She’burying her hubby of 55 years on Friday and she’s been talking to her professor so even though today’s paper will be late, she is making she doesn’t lose her grade. Her professor has assured her she’s fine. I want that. Not necessory a Master’s, but a degree, with at least a 3.0 GPA. I’ll never get the 4.0, I have to take my math and science class, that will blow it And for me. But damn it all (excuse my language), I want a degree.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Amy, your aunt sounds amazing. I can’t believe how strong she’s being, keeping her education in mind even as she says goodbye to her husband. The mind boggles.

      But we’re all behind you on getting your degree. Go, go, go!

    • Amy, it sounds as though you’re determined to get that degree, and determined people have a way of making things happen. I wish you luck and hope you’ll keep us posted.

  • Helen says:


    I love watching Irish dancing it looks like so much fun sadly I didn’t do anything like this when I was a child so I did try to get my kids to do a lot of things physical culture and all sorts of sports there was one thing I always wanted to do and that was learn to play the piano mybe one day I will get there

    Have Fun

    • Susan Sey says:

      Helen, you should totally look into the piano! My girls takes lessons from a lovely woman up the street with a sweet smile & a huge laugh. We adore her. And the person who has the lesson slot before ours is a retired gentleman who wanted to learn to play Gershwin. Only Gershwin. So that what she teaches him. I come home every class humming “Summertime.”

  • Shannon says:

    Things I want to do, with probability ratings:

    Sing. I cannot carry a tune, but I hear the song from Frozen or an aria from an opera, I wish I could reach those high and low notes. (Never going to happen.)

    Middle Eastern Dancing. I’ve seen belly dancing in Egypt but also local dancing in the gulf, especially wedding dances involving dozens of women in long flowing caftans. These women are limber and athletic. Because with the lack of tone, I also missed getting rhythm. (Still, I may yet sign up for a class just for the exercise and fun.)

    Writing Fiction. I know for y’all how much time and work this is. But I also see the satisfaction and joy. My writing at work is very structured, heavily edited, and when completed, satisfying. I do love doing the research. Now to make some time for workshops and online classes. (This is possible. But an inner voice says “You can’t do this.” But I keep telling myself that I can try.)

    • Susan Sey says:

      Shannon, I have always said that in my next life I want to be tall, have curly hair & sing like Aretha Franklin. (For the record, I’m short, my hair is pin straight & my singing voice is…slight.) I don’t care so much about the first two on the list but the next time around, man oh man, I’m going to sing like Aretha. 🙂

      Belly dancing would be super fun, of course, but writing fiction? Go for it! Especially if you already write in a more regimented format at work. You already have your basics that so many people struggle with–grammar, sentence structure, content, logical flow. Now you just need to insert imagination & off you go! Keep us posted on that one, okay?

    • Shannon, if you’re used to putting words on a page, you have an advantage over people who aren’t. One nice thing about writing is that you truly are the ruler of your book’s universe. Good luck with it! As Susan says, keep us posted.

  • Debbie says:

    I always wanted to take dance lessons when I was a kid, so I gave my kids that opportunity, they got to choose which they wanted to take and if they didn’t like it I didn’t force them to continue, just finish out the semester.
    I always wanted to play an instrument so I encouraged that tool
    My mother always insisted that I take office practices because “a secretary makes good money”. I hated it and did nothing with it…the typing has come in handy,so I encourage my kids to go with something that they will enjoy, they will go farther.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Debbie, my dad also insisted on secretarial skills! And, yeah, the typing has come in unbelievably handy.
      You’re a good mom to not insist your kids go beyond a semesters commitment, though. 🙂

  • Susan, I don’t think I want to go Irish dancing. It clearly makes you pregnant! 😉

    Wow, what a lovely post. And I’m so glad you’re going back to it. It always looks like such fun. Something that I’ve recently tried that I’d love to do more of is Regency dancing. It’s very like the English folk dancing that we did at school and I just loved. I’m sadly awfully uncoordinated so I don’t take to this stuff easily, but gosh it was fun. I went to a Regency day at a local museum and there was a troupe there inviting people to play. I think they were sorry they invited me – I kept coming back for more. Oh, their poor aching toes!

    • Susan Sey says:

      I was worried about the pregnancy thing too, I must admit. Measures have been taken, rest assured. 🙂

      Also, I think tromping about & making sort if a spectacle of yourself is part if the fun. So clearly you were dancing correctly. Well done!

    • Cassondra says:

      See, I read it and though the same thing. Irish dancing makes you get pregnant. Perhaps I’ll do that very late in life.

  • catslady says:

    My older sister took ball room dancing and I wanted ballet but they said no. So when my oldest was 3 I put her in a ballet class which she thought was ok but wasn’t truly enthused so we quit. I always wanted to play piano but that was out so finally I was allowe violin – 3 kids in the school class and the other 2 took private lessons. The first time I said I didn’t want to practice my mom said that was it!!! (she hated spending the money to rent the instrument). So I gave both my girls options to play an instrument – they both started out with violin and eventually were enticed to take a band instrument. My oldest took clarinet and I must admit she stuck it out all through school and was in the marching band. She wanted to take it in college but wasn’t able to make it to Penn State’s Blue Band. My youngest switched to trumpet but never really liked it so never made it to marching band. I wanted to be an artist but was told I had to get a real job – my youngest showed talent very young and I didn’t push her but I supported her and she went to college for fine arts and graphic art. Although she has to work part time elsewhere, her and her boyfriend have an art store and she is doing what she loves.

    • Susan Sey says:

      That’s the whole point right there, isn’t it? Finding a way to love what you do. I do hope you’ll get back yo making art one day!

  • Becke says:

    I love to watch the Irish Dance. We went to an Irish performance in Biloxi. The priest was a friend of the family and was from Ireland.

    I wanted to snow ski. I knew how to water ski but had never given the snow a try. We did it a few years back in NM. It was awesome. Our private instructor was very patient with his two geezers.

    • Becke, it’s so cool that you got to take skiing and had a good instructor. I have bad ankles and was never able to water ski, so I never tried it in snow.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oooh, snow skiing is fun! Good for you for trying it! It’s not easy, either. I tried it last winter & my bottom is still recovering.

  • Cassondra says:

    Susan, I’m so pumped that you’re going back to dance class! I was a dance minor for a while in college, and I’m just not cut out for it. I was a little surprised that it was not able to “click” with dance in that way. I can sing, play instruments, draw and paint (a little) so I was just sort of “expecting” to be able to dance too, yaknow? But..not.

    Granted, I never TOOK dance as a kid–I didn’t start until college, so I had a lot of catchup to do, but….A girl’s gotta know what she’s good at, and I was not cut out for that. I can dance, yeah…people would watch me having freestyle fun out on the dance floor and say I’m a good dancer, but as far as the onstage stuff….or even line dancing—nope. I’m no Paula Abdul.

    I’ve never tried the Irish dancing, or step dancing, which would be the kind I’d want to learn. But knowing what I know about myself, I could do it, but I’d never be any good… I will just live vicariously through you. :0)

    As to the question. I’ve wanted to learn to sail my whole life, and this spring I plan to do it. It’s one of the reasons I said no to travel this spring–so I could be here for those classes. I will almost certainly blog about this, and so you will get a full report. I hope I’m better at that than I was at ballet!

  • Susan, I hope you’re enjoying your lessons! My parents never foisted lessons of any kind on me, but they did decide it would be good for their bookish, geeky daughter to go to Girl Scout camp.

    I hated it.

    I’d never been away from home, it was two weeks, and starting the day by combing ticks out of my hair and then going swimming in a frigid mountain lake was so not my idea of a good time. I enjoyed the walks in the woods, but it was not an experience I otherwise cared to repeat.

    I took horseback riding as an adult because it was something I’d always wanted to do. I lasted a couple or three months before my schedule intervened, and I’ve always been glad I tried it.

    I got into kickboxing because the dh, thinking he was being amusing, poked me while we were waiting for the boy at karate class one day. “Look, honey,” he said. “They’re running a Mothers Day special, half off the new student fee for kickboxing.”

    I looked at the signboard with greater interest than he expected. I had just gotten bifocals, and it occurred to me that if I intended ever to be Batgirl, I needed to get a move on. I walked over to the desk and signed up.

    “I was kidding,” he said, looking sort of dumbfounded.

    I smiled. “I’m not.”

    I loved kickboxing. Loved karate, too, but my knees won’t take it anymore. I’m hoping to get back to kickboxing sometime this year. It’s the only form of organized exercise I actually like.

  • I’m so glad your girls are enjoying their Irish dancing classes! It is a great way for them to keep in contact with their roots. And get your little butt in there and learn. A dream that long delayed deserves to be fulfilled!

    I never took dance classes of any kind as a child. We moved so much during my Dad’s military career it made it difficult to do so. My grad school voice coach insisted all of her singers take ballet classes, ballroom dance classes and even modern dance classes. She felt it helped singers get in touch with their bodies and also helped with stage presence. I enjoyed the classes very much.

    I took skiing lessons in Germany – fell down a lot, had fun, and learned how to stay upright enough to enjoy it.

    I started taking piano lessons from the age of nine to twelve and continued off and on all the way through grad school. The consensus was I am a great musician, but I will never be a pianist and I am good with that.

    I studied the clarinet and bassoon in high school. Those were fun, but I haven’t touched them in years.

    I would like to take some language classes again one of these days. I love languages – speaking, reading, writing and the way we put words together. Guess that is why I am a writer. I’ve studied eight languages other than English and I’d like to study more.

    • Cassondra says:

      Louisa, I’m always astonished each time I learn something new about you. Eight languages!????

      Good Lord, the time it took me to learn el espanol (even a little of it) late in life was astonishing. But we learn so much more quickly when we’re younger. (this aggravates me to no end).

      As to your “musician” comment…It is so true that people have an affinity for certain instruments. Yours was certainly your voice, and perhaps others….

      For me, I know exactly the same amount of music theory for guitar as I do for piano. I might know MORE for guitar, actually. Guitar was my first instrument. I performed all over with it. But I’m a hack guitar player.

      Yet I got paid to play piano/keys in bands. I taught myself when I was 15 and it just stuck. By 17 I was performing with bands. Guitar? I love it, but there’s some kind of disconnect. That’s a complete mystery to me, but it’s interesting to hear you speak of it in these terms.

    • Susan Sey says:

      I’m with Cassondra–I’m amazed every time you casually reveal something new about yourself. 8 languages is pretty freaking amazing, as is your musicality. Even if you’re not a genius pianist, I’m guessing putost of us to shame. :-). I would so live to hear you sing some time….

  • Cassondra says:

    OH, Susan….I have a question, since you know about Irish dancing.

    What is the deal with holding your arms down all stiff at your sides, or in a particular position like they’re “stuck” there?

    The legs are moving like crazy, and the arms and upper body are kind of frozen. I watch this at highland games and think, “how did that come to be? What is up with that?”

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oooh, I know this one! Back in the early days of English occupation, the British forbade the Irish from doing their traditional dances. So the Irish learned to dance in such a way that if the Brits happened to sneak a peek in the pub window, they wouldn’t be able to see you dancing. Because your upper body was still. All the dancing was hidden behind the bar.

      Or so the story goes. True? Who knows? Makes a good story, though.

  • Mozette says:

    So what about you? Is there something you’ve always wanted to try or learn or do? Or is there something you gave your kids–lessons, experiences, classes–simply because you always wanted a chance but never got it? Or is this something your parents did to you–forced a class or a sport on you that you hated, because they loved it? Tell us about it!

    My folks gave my brother and I every chance in the world to do all the things we wanted to do… but they couldn’t always afford the things we loved.

    Like gymnastics. My brother and I were right into when we were around 10 or so; right up until he started Scouts and Mum and Dad pulled me from the sport. Okay, I wasn’t all that great at it, but they could have left me in it to give me a chance.

    Dancing and theatre was next with Wild Child Theartre. I wasn’t good at the theatrics part, but the dancing was something i found was great and they loved I could do it… I had the right athletic body for it… but Mum and Dad couldn’t afford to keep me in the dance classes… damn!

    So, I took up skateboarding and made a name for myself with that. I’m still known as a living skateboarding legend around Brisbane – as the first female skateboarder in Logan City. This is something I’m proud of; and yet next to nobody knows about, which is kind of sad.

    My folks did help me with my education at community college. They have always encouraged my brother and I to be all we want to be; but we have to make our own pathways – well most of the time – so we don’t expect people to write our story for us. Yes, they’ll encourage us, build us up, be with us on the opening of a business, when we get our first house, first car… you know the big stuff. Otherwise, we have to get to the top on our own… they just want to be included in the fun stuff of being at the parties. 😀

    They never used tobe like this, but being spectators have become something they’ve come to enjoy… Dad still wants to control everything, but he can see I’m a think-ahead kind of person too, and he likes that. 😀

    • Susan Sey says:

      Parents do have to walk a fine line between being supportive & hovering. I struggle with this with my own kids, obviously. But how cool that they’re always there for you. And that you’re a living skateboard legend. Very cool! Not many if us can say that!