How Daddy Got His Groove Back


Baseball

You might remember that daddy/daughter dates are my specialty (when I have a few bucks to spend). Dollar movies and baseball games, wings with coupons and museum visits. It’s just me, the girl, and undivided attention. I miss these.

The Father/Daughter Dance is the Daytona 500 of daddy/daughter dates. (Or, maybe the Daytona 500 is the Father/Daughter Dance of NASCAR. Depends on who you ask.)

This had been my showcase, people. I was that dad, the one with the dance card full from three beautiful girls. The guy who leads the Electric Slide. The dude who twirls around his girls and dips them and twirls them again.

The guy who not only knows the moves to Macarena, but who also delivers them with the gusto and hip-shaking sass. In the most manly manner possible, of course.

Let the record show that on Feb. 8, 2013, I looked like Michael Jordan in Wizards Blue, not Bulls Red. Like Andy Griffith as Matlock, not Sheriff Taylor. Like Meatloaf … well, like Meatloaf.

I had to get my groove back.

Let’s dwell a moment on my watershed moment, when I had to decide whether it was time to ride off into the sunset or kick like hell and go down in flames.

Kimbo Slice 1

With Elise, all high school now, likely sprawled on the couch at that moment, watching a PG-13 movie with her mom, I had Marie on one arm and Grace on the other, and arrived at the kindergarten-through-8th-grade party with a heavyweight champ swagger and reasonably comfortable pair of shoes, ready to cut a rug right there on the gym linoleum.

I’m not sure what song was playing, but I stashed the girls’ coats in the bleachers and bounced my way out to the girls in the middle of the dance floor.

I’m sure when Cascada sings “Evacuate the Dance Floor,” she thinks of me.

But when I reached my girls, my dance partners, including the little one, the one I won a dance trophy with at a sock hop once … they looked at me the way those Disney kids look at their parents:

Disgust, mixed with a little embarrassment, accompanied by the lip curl, eyebrow raise, and laugh track. Only, at a Father/Daughter Dance, there is no laugh track.

OK, granted, the song selection wasn’t the best. In place of “YMCA” and “I Like to Move It,” there was instead a painful litany of Taylor Swift breakup songs.

(For any of you out of the loop, let me tell you, there is an extensive library of Taylor Swift breakup songs. Like, outlast “The Godfather” extensive.)

Marie, for her sweetness, stayed by my side, while Grace made for the group of like-sized, sugar-hyped second-graders just itching to start a conga line. I used to lead that conga line.

One cute sweaty-headed second-grade brunette in a polka-dot dress rampaged about on all fours with a speed and dexterity usually reserved for the Discovery Channel. Nearly every song played conveyed a degree of hatred toward dudes.

Newman-Os cookies

I peered over my shoulder. The smattering of overmatched dads held up the walls and sipped ginger ale. Some crunched sandwich cookies and goldfish like they were Super Bowl party fare. They’re the ones who don’t always want to be here, who check their watches after every song, whose kids wind up in a sweaty, barefoot gaggle of girls sprinting and spilling pretzels and bouncing off each other.

At least my girls wouldn’t do that.

“Daddy!” Grace yelled above Taylor Swift’s “weeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE will never ever ever …”

“Can I take off my shoes?”

“NO!” I barked, then stood there, channeling my best McKayla Maroney scowl. Or the Grinch, casting his gaze upon Whoville. Either/or.

My Brett Favre moment was happening, and it wasn’t a Brett Favre Super Bowl moment with the Packers, or even the gaudy-stats Favre moment during his Vikings resurgence. It was definitely of the pedestrian, disappointing New York Jets era.

(For the sports illiterate, it’s like me as fat Elvis, not 60s Elvis. Now you get it.)

Times have changed. Marie’s heart is sweet. She’s not a boogie baby like Elise. So we talked. We laughed. We grabbed ginger ales, kept a watch for the monkey girl in the polka-dot dress, and wondered where in the heck Grace was.

We had pictures made, both girls flanking me, leaning in lovingly and smiling.

Then we hit the dance floor again.

With Taylor Swift’s lyrical angst exhausted and Adele’s undanceable entries fading out, the DJ spun “Footloose” next. Right in my wheelhouse. Or at least my generation.

I can’t gymnast-leap through a warehouse like Kevin Bacon at my age (hell, even when I was Kevin Bacon’s age in the movie), and I am not able to boot-stomp like Chris Penn, but I can move it move it. And I did. And this time, the eyebrows stayed down. Grace kicked it up. Marie’s knees, I’m convinced, bent a little bit to the beat.

Maybe I’m not the MVP anymore. Maybe I’m not the John Travolta of “Saturday Night Fever,” and more like the John Travolta of “Old Dogs.” (Not quite the John Travolta of “Hairspray,” thank Jesus.)

But if the Father/Daughter Dance is the Daytona 500 of daddy/daughter dates, at least I haven’t been crunched into the wall in Turn 1.

Yet.

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21 Replies to “How Daddy Got His Groove Back”

  1. I don’t think Father/daughter dances were invented when I was a girl. If they were, I never went. WHich is a damn shame because my dad can move. Like really move. He is an awesome dancer. I’m so happy you have always made time to take your girlies to their dances. They will remember you for it. Even if you aren’t an MVP anymore. 😉

    1. What did girls do when we were little? They didn’t have sports teams either, other than softball. I hope someday my girls post a comment on a blog singing my dance praises. Did he pay you to do that?

      I can deal with not being MVP anymore, but I saw just a couple of the young kindergarten dads who might have a chance to develop into my successor.

      MIGHT.

  2. Love love love this post!! They adore you no matter what, I’m sure. It’s our rite of passage as parents to become uncool at some point. Congratulations – you’re there!

    1. Because when the girls’ shoes come off at the dance, they regress to the children in Peter Pan. They run and scream and toss finger food in the air. When the shoes come off, the chances of dancing again are forever lost.

      And she’s a lot faster without shoes. Tougher to catch.

      1. haha … she’s pretty quick though, when she’s barefoot. What a train wreck this must all seem. Dads, in charge. Kids, eating sugar. Very little supervision. It’s like Chuck E. Cheese without the pizza.

  3. Yours are the only posts I seriously soak up every perfectly placed word and my face glows with this permanent smile that is filled with anticipation and exhilaration at the very same time. I mean it. I just love reading your stories because they have a brilliancy that only you can spin. Seriously. You have a gift.

  4. It happens in the life of every player…bit by bit, you will spend more time on the sidelines watching the game than being in it. And I won’t lie – your heart will bleed! It’s a slow, almost fatal kind of wound. I’ve been “benched” for a few years – my oldest lives on his own hours away. But because I played the game with him, he can stand on his own. I still play a few innings or get to coach from the sidelines…and I always will because whether he likes it or not, he will always be little boy! Dance like no one is watching, and when you aren’t dancing, marvel at what you have created! (Is anyone else singing Sunrise, Sunset…?)

    1. Love the sports references. I know that I can still play, and really, the oldest kid would probably have danced her butt off with me. I asked her tonight who her valentine is this year (Grace already revealed she has one, but won’t divulge a name).

      Elise said *I* was her valentine.

      So, yeah … I’m still kickin’!

  5. You, my dear are an inspiration. My father never went with me because he didn’t care to. So I went alone and danced with all of the fun dads who “thought they could move” (hmmm). They showed me that there were dads who cared, and loved, and cherished their daughters. It gave me hope for my own. 🙂

  6. Oh, how I have missed coming here. I love to hear how you spend time with your girls soaking up every moment with them. It makes me sad that I never went to a daddy/daughter dance and it makes me want to make sure that Leo takes our girls.

    P.S. I was having a huge problem not getting post updates from several bloggers. I had assumed that you were just busy with work but now that I think I have fixed the problem, I see that I have missed a ton. I have a lot of catching up to do.

    1. Glad you’re back! I think that if we dads don’t expect every interaction to end with a huge hug and “I love you dad!” exclamation, we’ll be fine. We need to know it’s the total body of work that will impress upon our girls, not the home-run moments.

      It’ll be one of the best things Leo ever does. This, and coaching your kids, I believe, are at the pinnacle of daddyhood.

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