There hasn’t been a weekend in recent memory during which I felt like more of a dad than I did this past one: February 7-8, 2014.
Friday night was Maddie’s daddy/daughter dance event at her elementary school. I’d heard of events like this one from FaceBook, and I knew there was one last year–her first year at this school–but I’d never been to one before (last year conflicted with Mardi Gras weekend in New Orleans). I was looking forward to it but also had some trepidation. Half an hour before we left, I wasn’t sure what to wear, for instance. My bride had spent half the day creating a dress for Maddie at her sewing machine, but I couldn’t decide if I should go business casual, in a suit and tie, a tuxedo, or just casual. I picked up my phone to text a friend, but then I couldn’t think of anyone to ask (and the one attorney I know whose daughter goes to school with mine was in Virginia doing a closing argument before securing a $3.9M verdict that day). Five minutes before go time, I walked out with a dark suit and no tie.
I was about to leave, but I thought: “I’m not going to know any of the dads at this thing, and if I go like this, it’s probable that I’ll leave without knowing any of them, too.”
So, I changed jackets.
Conformity is for pussies.
No fewer than 20 dads introduced themselves to me to compliment the jacket (two said, “I almost wore that exact jacket tonight–thank God I didn’t!”). When Maddie would run off with the other 2nd grade girls for a “Frozen” sing-a-long, I always knew she could find me when she so desired. I met several of her friends’ dads, which makes me feel more comfortable with potential “play dates” in the future.
I spent most of the night by myself–in line for the photo booth or in line for ice cream–while my 7-year-old ran around the auditorium looking for her friends. I’d hoped to dance with her, but she wasn’t interested. We did, however, enjoy our time in the photo booth together and sitting together for ice cream (twice).
The fact is, Maddie is the most like me of all our children. She’s uncomfortable in crowds (unless she gets there first) and is not a public dancer; I was the same way until my 20s. That said, she was genuinely appreciative of my going with her, and I’m glad I went.
The next day after morning swim lessons, Owen requested some “gentlemen time” in the form of going together to the “man barbershop” that opened a few months ago a couple miles from our house: V’s Barbershop. He sat down in front of the guy who usually cuts his hair while I waited on the guy who usually cuts mine to finish with another customer.
As soon as his backside hit the booster seat, he said: “I want a Mohawk.”
Barber: Dad, is he going to get a Mohawk today?
Me: Ummm…you sure about that buddy? Here, let me show you what that looks like (searching Google Images for Mohawk pictures)…see? Don’t you think you’ll be cold with no hair on the sides of your head?
Barber (quietly): I can just cut it like normal and spike it up in the middle if you’d like…
Owen: I want a Mohawk!
Me (texting my bride to make sure she won’t shoot us both): Let’s do it!
And so it began.
My haircut started before his finished, and as I began swapping war stories with my former Army barber like we do every Saturday haircut, I forgot about the butchery occuring just to my left. Until, “Daddy! He’s done!”
And then: “The girls at my school are going to be so…AMAZED!” And so was his mother, who had to conceal her teary eyes from the sheer horror of her little boy’s greeting her with his new ‘do when we returned home.
That evening, I’d reserved a dad/daughter dinner at Chick-fil-A for 4:30pm (apparently, they do this every year, but it was my first time to attend). My bride made another dress for 3-year-old Lola (whom I was slated to bring to our health club’s dad/daughter dance later that night), and I took the two girls to CFA. I wore the same jacket.
When the 3 of us walked into the restaurant, the entire staff (cashiers, wait staff, cooks, etc.) gave us a standing ovation. Apparently, most men don’t dress up to take their daughters to a fast food chicken joint. We ate some chicken, got some pictures, and then enjoyed a “back stage” tour of the kitchen and food prep areas. And, we met the cow.
Maddie: “Look! That guy has on a cow costume just like you used to wear the rat costume at Chuck E. Cheese!”
Then we went back home for a minute to drop off Maddie, and Lola and I left for the gym’s event. Even when presented with the option of staying at the indoor playground another few minutes, she opted to go to the dance.
We ran into
a drinking buddy an attorney I know when we walked in, and he stopped slurping his smoothie to run over to us and meet Lola (and tell her that her dad is crazy).
Once we got to the upstairs gymnasium, the dance was wholly different from the previous night’s experience. Lola sprinted to the dance floor. She did backspins on the ground, hula hooped, hopped on two feet, and did a move I’ve never seen before in which she’d grab my hands, plant her left foot on my right knee, and then flip upside down over and over again. I recorded a couple vines of her.
The DJ motioned for me to come to his table, reached into a box he had hidden underneath, and put a crown on my head while bowing before me.
“That jacket…” he said. “You need gold to go with your silver!”
Lola gave me a break for a few minutes when she spotted the crafts table, so I approached an orthopedic surgeon who’s helped some of my clients; he was with his daughter.
A few minutes later, a man in sunglasses approached me, extended his right hand, and said, “I know there isn’t another man in Atlanta with that jacket, so I assume you were at the dance last night, too?”
Both men have daughters who are in 4th grade; both said they figured it’d be the last year their daughters would want to go to an event like this with them. “I’m going to keep coming as long as she’ll let me,” the doctor said.
“Enjoy it while you can,” the one in sunglasses told me. “Before you know it, she’ll only be have time for her iphone and her friends,” he continued.
I looked over at my 3-year-old, who was removing her socks and shoes while allowing the construction paper wings on her Popsicle stick butterfly to dry. She ran toward me.
Lola: “Can we dance some more, Daddy?”
I waved goodbye to my new friends and followed Lola back to the dance floor, eager to push iphones and her friends as far into the distant future as possible.