I've seen my future. It seems I'll be dancing alone.
At least, I won't be boogying any large part of the night away
with either of my daughters, if a recent Daddy-Daughter soiree was
any indication of what tomorrow holds.
And I'll be honest. It breaks my heart.
The father of two
Brownies, I have attended two Girl Scout Daddy-Daughter dances now.
The first, last year, my eldest, Emma was my date. This year I
briefly double dated with both Emma and my youngest, Olivia.
Always the tomboyish trooper, Olivia insisted on getting dolled
up and going to the dance although she wasn't feeling well. But I
eventually had to bring her home. So in all fairness, who knows?
She may end up being my party partner for a long time.
But Emma, now two months shy of 9, is in full pre-teen posse
mode. When I returned after taking Olivia home, Emma led me through
the red and pink crepe paper streamers raining down over the
entrance, a true vision in her formal finest.
We entered during a fast song. So it was a matter of seconds
before I was standing on the dance floor alone, awkwardly trying to
bop to the beat of some boy band's electronically bolstered attempt
at music. Meanwhile, my baby, my angel, my first proof of God, ran
into a pack of similarly coifed, equally squealing little
I followed her into this ring of preteen beauties. Not wanting
to look too desperate, but hoping that she'd remember that she had
not driven there by herself, I took her hand and smiled.
Always the conscientious social butterfly, Emma quickly
introduced me around. And then promptly turned away again to dance
in a circle with her friends. I hit the pizza and pop, found a seat
at a lunchroom table and caught the eyes of several other dads also
paddling one handed in my boat.
Now, this is not to say that my daughter completely abandoned
me. She is too considerate for that.
Whenever there was a slow dance or a novelty song, or she needed
her shoe adjusted, or wanted some food or drink, I was her man. And
I guess, for the time being that will have to suffice.
But in between the DJ's strategic placement of "Daddy's Little
Girl," "Butterfly Kisses," "The Hokey Pokey" and "The Chicken
Dance," I pretty much stood by the wayside watching my child grow
up before my eyes.
I remembered when she was so tiny I could hold her in one hand.
Now I nearly get a hernia every time I try to carry her to bed.
She was dressed like a young woman and yet I couldn't get past
memories of a baby's wispy curls.
A toddler in love with water, splashing madly in and out of her
wading pool. A 5-year-old mastering the secrets of two-wheeled
bicycling on the first try-dashing my plans to spend all day
running up and down the street, but filling me with pride in her
And now, she was screaming over Aaron Carter, a boy band member's
younger brother who is smart enough to tap into the under-12 crowd
with bubble gum music so sweet it gives me a Krispy Kreme sugar
buzz just listening to it.
Of course, my argument that Aaron is ripping off dozens of
artists before him, can't sing and will fade like the leaves in
autumn when his voice changes, means nothing to Emma. All she knows
is that he's "cute."
And as she and her cronies ran around the dance floor holding
hands, giggling and sharing secrets about Lord knows what, I
wondered, "What does she mean by 'cute'?"
But I knew that, no matter her definition, she had started down
the path toward dates and Friday nights, trips to the mall and
And away from me.
Seeing the future -- theirs and mine -- I want to know my
daughters will find someone who will respect and appreciate them as
much as they deserve, and as I try to.
But it's impossible. No one can love and care for and protect
them like I can. Still, I know I can't hold their hands forever.
And it kills me.
I want to show them around life's dance floor. But nature is
starting to cut in.
Tom Hernandez is a dad of two living in Plainfield. He recently
published a book, Chocolate Cows and Purple Cheese and other tales
from the homefront.
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