I have been to my share of daddy-daughter dances — as a photographer. Most were awkward affairs, with the girls twirling in the middle of the dance floor, while their dads propped themselves up against the wall or sat in chairs across the room.
Even before we had kids, I told my wife: “When we have a daughter and I take her to a daddy-daughter dance, I’m going to be out there dancing with her.”
Then, I placed my hands on my hips, puffed out my chest and unbuttoned my shirt to reveal the big, red “D” underneath.
And earlier this month, my Super Daddy street cred remained intact, after I snagged the final two tickets to Plant City’s Daddy-Daughter Dance (special thanks to Planteen Recreation Center Supervisor Jason Hargrove).
I flew home from the office that day, using only my cape, and shared the news with our 4-year-old daughter, Aria.
Now, Aria is not a girly-girl. Her favorite color is blue, and she’d rather play with Hot Wheels and trains with her older brother than baby dolls or Barbies. More often than not, she’s dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, which, of course, have holes in the knees.
But, when we told her about the special night, she stood straight up to demonstrate her favorite dance moves, one of which is simply running in place on her tiptoes. And after my wife helped Aria into her dress the night of the dance, she insisted on wearing her princess slippers — the ones that give her blisters. So, my wife placed Band-Aids on her heels to keep them from hurting too much.
Aria’s eyes widened as we entered the HCC John R. Tinkle Center that night. She marveled at the balloons floating over the dance floor, and her hand wrapped around the stem of a delicate pink carnation. A sparkly princess crown awaited her at our assigned table. She grabbed some decorative diamonds off the table and asked if she could bring them home.
I am knocking it out of the park! I thought to myself. I am awesome.
So awesome, in fact, that I had not anticipated exactly what it would be like to actually dance with a 4-year-old. Gone were Aria’s special “tiptoe-running-man” moves, replaced with the “recklessly-throwing-my-entire-body-weight-straight-back” move. You know, because I am Super Daddy, and I will catch her. Over. And over. And over …
And when she grew tired of going backward, we graduated to the “tossing-me-over-your-head” move and did that for another song. Then, came the four minutes of constant spinning. Then, more tossing.
Just six songs in, and Super Daddy had melted into an exhausted puddle. Suddenly, my big red “D” stood for “Defeated.”
(Incidentally, it seemed every girl was dancing with their dates. No wallflowers here. Plant City dads rock!)
After a quick break, the music started up again. Humbled, I squatted down to Aria’s level, mustering up the strength to dance as long as she wanted.
“Do you want to dance again?” I asked her.
“No. I’m ready to go home and play now,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone she got straight from her father.
The sun was setting as we walked, hand-in-hand, back to our car. I realized this was the first time Aria and I had ever been out together — just the two of us. She was quiet on the drive home, and I wondered if she had fun. I wondered if she would treasure the night — and all the priceless details — like I would. After all, although the dance was designed for the girls, the real beneficiaries were the fathers, grandfathers and other paternal figures who escorted them to the dance.
As soon as I unlocked the door to our home, Aria plopped herself down to pull off her princess shoes. I could see red lines on her feet, where the shoes had dug into them. But, the whole evening, she never once complained.
She slept long and hard that night. In the morning, she emerged from her room with a princess crown atop her head. I rolled myself out of bed, pulled on the shirt with the big, red “D” on the front, and went downstairs for breakfast.