She smiled, flashed her big brown eyes open wide in anticipation, before scooting over and asking what I knew she would ask.
“Daddy, will you dance with me?”
Dancing. It terrifies me. On the other hand, I don’t mind looking like a fool on the dance floor because other than a slow dance, I know that’s how I’ll look.
Now my oldest daughter, Shawnna, who was 14 years old at the time, was asking to dance with me at her basketball fund-raiser in the school cafeteria.
There’s only one answer. “Absolutely!”
There were lots of girls there, only a handful of guys, and even fewer fathers. If you lined all the other males up and rated them from first to last on the dance floor, I would by far be last, dead last. I didn’t, no wait, I still don’t know how to two-step.
Shawnna is a very kind, observant daughter and knew I would dance, but also knew I didn’t like dancing because quite frankly, I don’t know how. As if our roles reversed, she smiled, took my hand and said, “Come with me. I’ll teach you.”
Out in the hallway where no one else could see, she and her best friend at the time, patiently showed me how to step and slide my feet in rhythm to the song. She inherently followed.
It was way, like other side of the world way, out of my comfort zone. Holding hands as we danced, I moved awkwardly, but together. It started slowly, very slowly, to sink in on how to two-step. Her best friend stepped in and gave me some pointers.
Then Shawnna cut back in and continued the lesson. With roles reversed, I’ve never forgotten her words.
“Just move, Daddy. Wherever you go, I’ll follow your lead. Don’t worry about making a mistake. If I follow, it won’t be a mistake.”
In so many ways her words were wise far beyond her years, and they grabbed my heart for a lifetime.
As her father, I made mistakes, unintentional, but still mistakes. Sometimes I stepped on toes. Moved out of tune. Tripped at times. Even falling down occasionally.
I did some things right. I think, or maybe just want to believe, that I did more right than wrong. What I remember most are my mistakes in my parenting dance, not the smooth dances. I remember when I was out of sync for what was needed at the time, and when I blew it for the best interest of my child’s future.
By and large, I danced the parenting dance the best I could. I wish it was perfect. It wasn’t.
Shawnna stepped back and with questioning eyes, “Are you ready?”
On the dance floor, I was terrible. Truly, terrible. But between my daughter and her best friend, I got through, and honestly, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.
Trying to two-step with my beautiful daughter, I remember looking in her smiling, big brown eyes.
I remember thinking about her future. In those moments I saw it coming to fruition. And everything I imagined and hoped for her has, and is, coming true.
Today she’s a well-adjusted, successful, kind, competent woman, a person you just feel at peace being around. She’s a good mother to a newborn son, a loving wife to her husband, an understanding teacher to 4th graders, a graceful loyal friend, and a pride and joy to her father.After two-stepping for what seemed an eternity, I decided to switch from traditional dance to a few spastic moves of my own.
Somewhere in a cross between pop, rock, break and pole dancing, I danced like Sponge Bob in muriatic acid. In 30 seconds I went from a poor dancer but trying, to a nutcase on steroids!
All the other kids thought it was great! Not Shawnna. She stopped, looked in disbelief, then turned walking away in embarrassment with her hand covering her eyebrows.
Yes!! Father success!
Parenting is a strange job. Every parent knows there will be a time when their children begin to dance without them. From total dependence to independence, we raise them to lose them, but never stop loving them.
Like a time traveler, I saw it back then dancing with my 14-year-old daughter. That dance is but a memory, but I’ll never forget.
It wasn’t the dance. It was the person. It wasn’t the then. It was everything past, present and future.
What has been, was. What is, is. What will be, shall.
She was, and is, a Princess of the Most High God, and in my heart, will always be Daddy’s little girl.
And so the dance continues.