ROCKING OUT (guest post)

I was sitting in the living room folding a load of laundry when I heard my 5 year old daughter in her bedroom.

“Hey everybody, thanks for coming out! Does anyone have any questions before we get started with the class?”


I stopped what I was doing and went and peeked in on her. Instead of getting shy when she saw me, she puffed right up. “Mama! Did you come to take MY Zumba class?” She showed me everything I would need. Two Barbie dolls, the stool from the bathroom, and a washcloth from the linen closet. “Alright. Let’s get started.”


Then she turned around, flipped on the radio, started with a little bounce, and then cranked the music up. LOUD.


Just like mama.


She comes with me to the studios and gyms where I teach a lot. On Wednesday nights she colors, brushes her Baby Butterscotch, and occasionally naps on the couch while I teach a Zumba Toning class (which explains the Barbie dolls). On Thursdays she eats the dinner I pack her, and plays with another little girl while I teach Zumba Sentao (hence the chair). On Fridays she’s a student of my ZumbAtomic class, with 5 or 6 other children. And every day at home she’s my dance partner in the kitchen when I’m learning new songs. Our house is always full of music and something is always shaking or shimmying.


It’s such a lesson for me about the way our children pay attention, even when we think they’re not. I’ve heard her scold her baby doll about rolling her eyes. And tease her Gund cocker spaniel about being a smelly beast. Things she’s not even in the same room when I’m saying them she still hears and repeats. So, it makes me wonder where the other stuff is. The last year has been among the hardest in my life. She’s seen crying and heard arguing. Daddy sleeping on the couch and mommy sleeping with the dog. Days when I couldn’t even get myself out of bed, when she’d have to eat a string of snack foods – yogurts and apples and pieces of cheese – because I couldn’t make myself get up to fix breakfast. I know those things have to be swimming around in her thoughts too. So why haven’t I walked into her room to find her ‘playing’ with a half eaten bag of Ruffles and Lifetime movie, eyes swollen half shut from weeping?


I hope it’s because the me in crisis isn’t the me my kids see all the time. I hope it’s because, even during this hard year, what I’ve modeled for my daughter is how to move through hard times and come out the other side. Maybe I’ve shown her to find what works. Even though I tried the Ruffles and tears, I didn’t get stuck there. Maybe she won’t either. I know I can’t shield her from pain in her life, but perhaps instead of beating myself up for not always shielding her from mine, I can be okay about it because even though she’s seen me cry, she’s also seen me find ways to cope.


Of course, at this point in her life, she’d never describe Zumba as a tool for coping. She has no idea the medicinal effects of the music and the endorphins and the sweat and the emotional release. Maybe she feels some of those things, but at five years old I don’t expect her to be able to put words to any of that. Maybe someday she will. But for now, watching her teach an imaginary Zumba class gives me hope that I’m passing down something good.


Yesterday as I taught, she stood in the corner of the room and ROCKED OUT. I mean, she totally ROCKED THE HECK OUT. No holds barred, danced like nobody was watching (and also a little bit like people were. Again like her mama).  And after, a student came over to me and said, “I just want to BE her. I want to tell her to stay just like she is. Because it’s AWESOME.” And I smiled so proudly, because I’ve gotten to rock out with her a lot lately. Once I put down the Ruffles and turned on some music.


Sue O’Lear is a licensed Zumba Fitness Instructor, Mom, wife and blogger at



Never miss a post. Enter your email to get my latest posts delivered to your inbox.


  1. says

    I am SO happy this is the first post I read after awaking at 3:30 this morning! YES! kids pay attention to us when we’re not looking but SO MUCH joy comes when we pay attention when they’re not looking….

    I often say….I want to be her! or her! or her! until i want to be ME…won out! the best magic in the world is to look at your own daughter and see ourselves within them…MAGIC…

    have missed you Sue…glad your rockin out with the words again!

    • says

      Aww, Jules, thanks. You always say such nice things. I’m trying to flex that writing muscle and venture out on a regular basis again.

  2. says

    My head is about to explode! Two of the people who inspire me most in the universe together!!!!! OMG Sue! You are so awesome!!! As you see, our kids don’t see with their hearts. Your kids know what an awesome mom you are and love and respect you for it. They may not ever tell you. But they know how to show you. Love you even more.

  3. says

    That’s so awesome! I can remember being a kid playing school, This is too cute to show how impactful a healthy lifestyle can be even on child!

    • says

      I miss playing school! My mom used to let me use the back of my bedroom door as a blackboard and write on it with chalk. My kids barely even know what a blackboard is now. Lol.

  4. says

    I haven’t had the gift of children yet, but it inspires me so much to read you and Carla and hear how you are the parents I would like to be someday.

    • says

      Okay so would you say that same thing if I told you that this morning my kids ate 4 microwaved chicken nuggets and a bowl of cookie crisp cereal before they left for school with what I’m pretty sure were unbrushed teeth?

      Doesn’t happen like that EVERY day, but by Friday it’s pretty much anything goes around here…

  5. says

    My son, now at 14, channels many of my traits. Most recently when I did something “amazing” (read clumsy) he looked at me and said, “How do you manage?” Classic.Mom.Remark.

    Apple – tree. So proud.

  6. says

    She has a very good head on her shoulders, and a very awesome Mom. She absolutely knows that the crying and ruffle eating Sue is not who you are, even when you aren’t exactly sure of that yourself. :)

  7. says

    Thinking back to your class at Fitbloggin12 is STILL and will ALWAYS be a highlight of my entire fitness life. The entire thing, I tell ya. If you daughter proves to be any more like you beyond her current state of awesome, then the world bettah WATCH OUT!

  8. says

    Josie, you blow me away. Thank you for saying that. It certainly was a special class that day. I’m really glad we got to do that together!

  9. Angela W. Schareffler says

    What a wonderful post and gentle reminder that not only is our children watching, but others as well! Your life sounds wonderful and your daughter sounds amazing. It is good to see that others struggle with life, but you don’t stay there. Love your words!!!

    Our lives interact with others constantly and as you pointed out, others hear what we have to say, even when we think we have privacy and they see our actions. The key is to move forward, not stay stuck in the mire and you have done just that!

    I love it!

  10. says

    POWERFUL! I mean, that is all that came to my head at first after reading!!! THANK YOU for sharing all these parts of your life! Kids really do see & hear all & I hope they are resilient because I was not the best stepmom when the kids were young. I think they are cause those kids are great adults!

  11. says

    Sue, this is a GREAT post!!! ZUMBA, dance, music, body movement, HEALS! I love that you are sharing this with your baby girl. This is a gift that you are giving her that she will forever appreciate even though she doesn’t realize it now! God bless you and your family! ZUMBA love! <3


  12. says

    You are the type of female role model I wish I had growing up. Showing that we will come out on the other side of controversy, that it’s okay to dance like no one is watching, that I too can do whatever I want to do.

    You inspire me on a daily basis and I hope to be half the mom you are!


  13. says

    Sounds like the little one is picking up all the best of her momma and you can’t ask for anything more.

    I’m sitting here lamenting the fact that I cannot do Zumba this weekend, maybe even longer while I heal up. And I miss the power, control and release of being in my element. I’d love to dance with Barbie dolls as weights with Mini MFA right now. Think she could work me in?

  14. Joy says

    I’m going to have to stop reading your posts.
    You always make my cry with the touching
    stories you share! Really, Sue, you have such
    a way with words. If that daughter of yours gets
    just one of your many talents (Zumba
    Extraordinaire, Super Mom, Writing Wizard,
    or Wifey Supreme), she’s going to be
    something to behold as an adult! And, if
    she enjoys Zumba that much, you should
    totally give her a “guest spot” during one of
    your classes. :) Talk about a life changing
    moment! Dang, Sue! You have the power!

    • says

      LOL!! Could you imagine? Carolyn down front with the Chickah Chickah sticks?

      Thanks, Joy. You are always so supportive and I appreciate it more than you could possibly know.

  15. says

    I can picture my daughter as a 5 year old doing the same thing. I love when they perform! My kids have been performing for years on stage too.

    Great article. I share your joy in your daughter’s enthusiasm. Keep up the good work.

  16. Ingram says

    What a great post! I have a fitness studio, teach Zumba and have a twelve year old daughter. It is amazing to me what children absorb and thankfully yours is absorbing the positive. You are real and you showed your daughter (even though as you said…she can’t verbalize or express this yet, but she gets it..) that you are a fighter. You didn’t just fall apart and stay there. You were real. You have struggles and pain but showed her they don’t have to be permanently disabling. You. Kept. Going. (Even thought you had a brief stint with Lifetime movies and Ruffles) What a powerful message to send to her. Life isn’t perfect, there are bumps and missteps but you keep going. (Just like a Zumba class!) I hope and pray that I am demonstrating the same type strength to my daughter and teaching her to take care of herself mentally, emotionally and physically. She also has entertained herself on many occasion while I have taught my classes. In the past year or two, she has actually come up on stage with me and “taught”. I found a school paper not long ago that she had filled out. Two questions stood out to me. One was…”who is your hero?” and the other was “what is one thing you can do to help change the world?” Her answers? First, “my mom” and the second answer was “be a Zumba instructor like my Mom. ”
    Wow. Proud mom moment for sure.
    Keep on teaching that girl the right things. I am cheering for you! I hope you will cheer for me!

  17. Teleasha says

    Zumba is captivating even to the most inhibited adult. Imagine if we were as uninhibited like your daughter, feeling free to move, swing , shimmy and scream even…she is my hero. I want to BE her too!

  18. says

    What an amazing post. This really touched me because in my house exercise was not valued and bags of Ruffles were. I grew up chubby with severe binge eating issues. I am 31 years old and still fighting them. I hope to teach my daughter healthier habits just like you are doing.

  19. says

    Love your images that jumped right out from the page and grabbed me!
    Kids do the coolest stuff before the world gets a hold of them and makes them think they can’t.
    Thanks for a wonderful post.

    • says

      That is exactly it – I want to protect that confidence for as long as I can, before the world gets to her. Thank you for reading!

  20. says

    Wow! What a great post! So open and honest and thought out clearly. My parents fought in front of me when I was that age and I am no worse for it. I took away the good times I had with them and I don’t remember ever thinking anything of the way my parents behaved. I just knew that it was not right and that I should not behave in that manner. If anything, it was a learning experience of how to stick up for myself and be a strong individual no matter what life throws at you.

  21. says

    Love this! It must be an amazing feeling having your daughter take after you in certain aspects, especially in terms of healthy habits. Teaching her own Zumba class in her room? Thats awesome! Surely she picks up on the happier more upbeat mom traits because thats the one who’s around most of the time. Sounds like a great role model to me!