Daddy Daughter Dance: A Tragedy in Three Acts

All week I was telling Lucy, my three-year-old, that we’d be going on a special Lucy Daddy Date, a Daddy Daughter Dance at her school. We were looking forward to it for days, and when the day arrived we both just wanted it to be over.

Act I: Tears

Her dress was picked out. A new little sweater was bought just for the occasion. Mommy was going to give her pretty hair. I remember hearing about how long and painful the preparations for things like proms and weddings can be for women, I didn’t realize that training for this starts so young.

While I was getting myself gussied up, my wife was getting Lucy ready in the bathroom so they could have a big reveal when she was ready. While I couldn’t see what was going on, I sure could hear. Screams. Cries. Downright shrieks were coming from the bathroom. Probably throwing some kind of tantrum about wanting her hair a certain way or something I figured, and I kept getting myself dressed. When I walked out of my bedroom I saw her holding the Boo Boo Ducky (a duck shaped ice pack for kids).

The hair curling pole was plugged in and within her reach while they were getting ready. Any guesses what she touched? If you guessed the scorching hot exposed metal of an incredibly poorly designed grooming device – you’re correct! How we are all walking around with super computers in our pockets but women still make their hair a different shape by using a glorified hot iron poker is beyond me.

Anyway, after crying in pain for about a half hour, she really wasn’t in the mood to party. General sobs became outright cries of “I don’t want to go!” Even the lure of cookies and cupcakes that would be at the dance were not enough to change her mind. But we were going to make memories damn it, and we already paid for the ticket, so it was time for bribery. How about some candy now? If you have a sucker now you can take it with you, AND get a cookie when you’re there!

With bandaids on her fingers and a sucker in her mouth we were on our way.

When we walked in it was overwhelming even for me. Tiaras, balloons, streamers, photo booths, obnoxiously loud music, snacks. Where to start?

Lucy: “Can I get a donut?”

Me: “Yes, sweetie.”

Act II: Donuts

We made out way into the school gym full of other little girls and fellow dads and immediately looked for a place to sit and eat our donut. We sat, but she didn’t eat. She just sat there with a sad, disinterested look on her face.

Sad little girl.

I never thought I would have to convince my kid to eat a donut, but she wanted to do nothing at all. So we sat there and I asked questions hoping the answer to one of them would be yes. Want a bite of donut? Want some juice? Do you see any friends from your class? Do you want to dance? Do you want to get our picture taken? Do you like this song? Will you please take pity on your father?

Finally she agreed yes, she wanted to go look at the photo booth, but only if I carried her. She put the sucker back in her mouth, we wrapped the donut up in a napkin and we make our way across the gym. On this journey through a swirling mass of daddies and daughters something jumped out at me. Somewhere around the age of what looked like second graders, attire changed from cute little dresses to prom dresses – some simple, some downright fancy. I assume the fancy dress girls belong to the three piece suit dads. I decided when Lucy gets older I hope she is friends with the kids of a simple shirt and tie dad.

Upon arrival at the photo booth, Lucy says she doesn’t want to get her picture taken, but would rather go sit back down and eat her donut.We find a new place to sit, unwrap he donut, and discover that the juice box was left behind. I assume its been thrown away or stolen by a prom queen of tomorrow, so I carry her back out into the hallway with our wrapped up donut to get a new juice box.

After being smooshed in my hand while I carry her, the donut is by now just crumbs loosely held together by frosting, but she eats it and I see a glimpse of her usual self as we make silly faces back and forth as we eat. I remember the table of tiaras we passed when we walked in and ask if she wants to go get a princess crown. She said yes – we’re on a roll! The sucker is back in her mouth and we are on our way.

Little girl clings to Daddy.

With a boost of confidence that I assume comes standard with a tiara, we go back into the gym to give the photo booth another shot. Provided of course that I carry her. While waiting in line I ask if she wants to me to put her down and dance. She clings tighter at the suggestion. When it is almost our turn for the photo booth, the DJ stops the music to make an announcement. It’s princess time.

Act III: Princesses

The homecoming queens of Christmas future rush the stage as soon as Anna and Elsa appear. I hold Lucy up a little higher so she can see. I point out Cinderella, Tianna, Belle, and Arielle. She knows them all, she loves them all. She is utterly unmoved by their presence.

Daddy Daughter Dance Picture

Our turn for the photo booth is next when the princesses disperse from the stage to various places in the gym, including our photo booth. As luck would have it, ours turned out to be the Anna and Elsa booth. Surely this will get a positive reaction. She sings or listens to something from Frozen literally every day. Maybe she’ll sing! Maybe she’s dance! She clings to me and hides behind her sucker.

I try dancing with her a little, she stays stone faced. I take her to more princesses – Tianna said she likes her dress! Might as well said there’s no Easter Bunny. Lucy asks if she can have a cookie. Sure kiddo, why not.

A second sugary pick me up helps. She asks if she can go see Belle and she lets me put her down for the first time all night. She puts her sucker back in her mouth and we walk back into the gym. After staring at Belle without saying or doing anything, she walks around for a few minutes trying to get a balloon. Its the happiest she’s been all night and we get some good selfies out of it.

Daddy and Daughter Silly Faces

Sadly, while making some silly faces the sucker (which miraculously has lasted well over an hour at this point), falls out of her mouth and cracks on the gym floor. I try to get her to dance a little more or see some more princesses, but at this point we are both over it. I ask if she wants to go home and she silently nods.

As we walk back to the truck the cold air feels good and we can see lots of stars in the sky.

Lucy: “It was loud in there.”

Me: “I know.”

Lucy: “When we get home, can we watch a movie.”

Me: “Yes, sweetie.”

The Morning Routine Includes Frostbite

Getting out the door on time in the morning doesn’t happen on its own. Little people must be hurried along. Every step of the process needs to be asked for at least five times before I end up doing it anyway. We need to leave the house on time to get to the little one’s daycare on time to get to the big one’s pre-school on time so I can get to work at a reasonable time. Our morning routine runs like a New Zealand watch. (Fun Fact: New Zealand is exactly opposite from Switzerland.)

It is very common that I forget something in the process, though usually it is something minor like brushing my own teeth. But hey, after a cup of coffee at the office who’d know the difference anyway.

This morning was a little or hectic than usual. The little kid was crabby about everything, and the big kid want to “help”, which consisted mostly of constantly handing me my keys that I then set back down on the counter next to my phone and wallet. I put them there so I easily grab them all before I go out the door. FORESHADOWING!

After fighting the miniature lady to get her socks, boots, jacket, and mittens on – because it was 15 degrees outside – we were finally almost basically to go. I remote started my truck to get it nice and warm, then I just had to brush my own teeth (hey, I remembered) and pack my own lunch. While I was putting leftover pizza in a baggie my “helper” brought me my keys. I put my pizza in my computer satchel, grabbed the kids backpack and lunches, grabbed my phone and wallet, and we were out the door which I locked behind me.

Somewhere between my third and fourth step out the door noticed my keys weren’t in my front right pants pocket. Surely then they must be in my jacket pocket, right? Right?!? How about the other pocket? Or that other pocket over there? Good god man how many pockets does a jacket really need to have?!?

In all my live I had never used more self control than I did in that moment trying not to drop an A-bomb of an F-bomb in front of my kids. To my credit, all I dropped were the bags I was carrying as I dashed back to the door to check, double check, and triple check that it really was locked for real. Which of course it was.

The front door! We used that yesterday, maybe we were irresponsible home owners and left that unlocked over night. That sounds like us. Unfortunately, responsibility prevailed last night. Locked.

Windows! I can pop out a screen an slide one open, no problem. Expect its February in Michigan, we haven’t opened a window in three months. All locked.

At this point I started to weigh my options. I could kick the door in. Pro – always wanted to do that. Con – gonna have to fix that later. I could break a window. Pro – seems like fun. Con – seems more expensive than a door jamb. The little window in the shower doesn’t really lock, it just sort of latches. I bet it could find a way to wiggle that lose and drop one of the kids in there. Pro – the most McGyver like option and an opportunity for family bonding. Con – possibility of dropping kid in their head in the bathtub and they won’t have their wits about them to remember to go open the door for daddy.

I began calling my wife repeatedly. She works in a dentist office, so she can’t have her phone on her but I figured trying a dozen or so times can’t hurt. Luckily she hadn’t seen her first patient of the day yet and she glanced at her phone. A quick conversation later and she was on her way. Now we just had to hold out for twenty or so minutes in the cold. Which is all mental. 15 degrees you say? Nonsense, feels like at least 17! Pass me a daiquiri!

The kiddos on the other hand were starting to break. Cheeks and noses were redder than they were rosy. Playing in the snow became more standing still and poking the snow with a stick. Then came, “Daddy, its cold.”

A scan of the neighbors houses showed they’d already left for work. The garage would stop the wind, but it wouldn’t stop the cold. But at least were were only feet from my truck which had the heat cranked since I remote started it. What a special torture that was.

I decided to walk to the coffee shop about a half mile away. It will be an adventure! I can carry the little one and the big one can walk, and when we get there – hot chocolate for all! Dad of the year!

Going as fast as three-year-old legs can go (which is not very fast all), I was making my way through the bitter cold with my children to find find our refuge. And cocoa. And wifi. Just like the pioneers.

We got about half way there when I saw my wife’s van come into view. She blew right past us. She went to the house to get it unlocked and my truck started back up, and I turned us around and walked back. By the time we got home the little one was crying and snotty-faced. The big one was very confused. I was going to be late. But hey, at least I ended up getting to walk that full half mile.

Baby Bumps Are Weird

My wife is currently 7ish months pregnant with our third child. Several times a day I am prompted to look at the baby kick here or there, wiggle this way or that, or just see how generally lumpy he’s making my wife’s stomach. Having been through this twice before now, the novelty has worn off, and to be totally honest – a baby protruding out of my wife was never my favorite thing in the first place.

I assume that sounds terrible to some people. I mean, how can I not be amazed by the miracle of life? It is amazing, it is a miracle, it is wonderful. It is also gross and weird. The first time I felt our first baby kick, my reaction wasn’t so much awed wonder as it was recoiled shock. Two more babies have not changed that.

Worse than a little kick or punch is a full on wiggle. Seeing a tiny little wave roll across my wife’s belly gives me the jibblies. Feeling it will have me pulling away as if I just touched a hot stove.

Literally as I type this my wife just asked me, “You didn’t just touch me did you?” I am at least 2 feet away from her, so, no I didn’t. “I just felt something way over here,” she said pointing to her side. “Creepy baby.” – Her words, not mine.

Whenever she complains about the pains and discomforts of being pregnant and the experience of actually giving birth, I always tell her “but then you get a baby!” I often remind myself of the same thing when she asks me to “come feel this hard part right here.” I always assume any hard part is the butt. I don’t know why. Maybe because I’d rather it be that than feel like I’m giving my unborn baby a noogie. Baby after they are born – noogies all day. Baby still in utero – noogies are mean.

Before I had any kids I always knew the birth part would be gross, but I never expected that out of the pregnancy. I expected pickle cravings, trips for ice cream at odd hours of the night, feeling hot when its 30 out, feeling cold when its 90 out, and remodel after remodel of the baby’s room. I did not see being weirded out by the belly. It also just dawned on me that perhaps my entire perception of what pregnancy is like for a husband was shaped by Father of the Bride Part 2.

The Manliest Parker I’ve Ever Seen

I’ve never been so thoroughly impressed and intimidated by another man as I was when I saw a man park.

I was dropping my daughter off at pre-school like I do almost every morning. I pulled into the drop-off parking lot and I pulled into a spot just like every other car in the parking lot, which was maybe half full. Then I saw a man in an SUV pull into the lot and for no particular reason at all – back into a spot.

What a move. Absolute alpha right there. No reason to do it other than he wanted to and he could. Parking lot was half empty, could have parked anywhere. The lot is the drop off loop with just one way in and one way out, so no strategic value to being able to pull out of the spot to leave. Just wanted to spread his hearty musk all over that parking space.

I bet he backs into his drive way at home which is always perfectly shoveled and salted in the winter. In the summer I bet he sits in his car an extra minute before getting out to admire his lawn which is greener than Kermit’s ass.

I bet he backs into his spot at the butcher shop before going inside to get his meat which he will grill to a perfect medium rare every damn time. And yeah, that’s right, he gets his meat from the butcher whom he knows by name.

I bet he backs into his spot at the golf course before going out and shooting par. I bet he even backs his golf car up to the green before sinking his putt. He never two-putts.

I bet he backs into his spot at the Home Depot when he goes there to get new stain for his deck. That he built himself. Which is always immaculate. That he sits on and smokes cigars. Good ones.

I bet he backs into his spot at the doctor when he goes for his regular prostate exam, because he’s responsible like that.

I bet he backs into his spot at the gym when he goes there to work on his abs, which are visible.

I bet his kid backs their little Power Wheels car into a tiny little parking spot in the back yard before going inside to eat their vegetables.

This other dad is really in my head. And he backed in there perfectly.

How To Use Your Kids to Get Free Pancakes

With a three-year-old and an almost two-year-old, going out to eat is pretty much never a relaxing time for me and my wife. It is more about entertaining than eating. Even if the restaurant is very kid friendly and has crayons and a menu they can color, that buys about 5 minutes until all the crayons are on the floor, the menu is torn, and we start praying the Cheerios last until the food comes. Which it probably won’t, and we’ll start playing Three Card Monte with sugar packets. Find the Splenda kids!

We know this, and yet we go out anyway. Partly because it is good for everybody to get out of the house and the kids need to learn to behave in public, and partly because we really don’t feel like cooking. Breakfast works the best for us. We can be in and out before anybody needs a nap or has had time to do anything so bad they don’t get to go.

Last Sunday we went out to breakfast and had a very normal time. Lucy (my three-year-old) colored, dropped some crayons, stacked and counted the coffee creamers, and tried to stand up to look at the people sitting behind us. Very standard, very acceptable. Evie (my 21-or-so-month-old) wasn’t great, but not terrible either. Despite our assurances that it would not end well for her, she kept putting her feet up on the table. After we told her no and made her stay in her booster seat, she cried. My wife took her to walk around, and when Lucy saw that Evie got to get up from the table, she was suddenly jealous and started to cry too. All par for the eating in public course.

The food came, they stopped crying, we ate pancakes, and a perfectly average time was had by all. When the waitress brought the bill she said, “Just so you know, there is nothing for you to pay. Somebody wanted to pick up your check.”

Naturally, my first thought was “I wish I ordered the full stack of pancakes and not the half.” But I was honestly shocked and very grateful. Who was this? And old friend? A kind stranger picking up random checks? Nope.

The waitress said they wanted to stay anonymous, but they saw us with two little kids and another one on the way and thought we would appreciate the help. Pity? Did I just eat pity pancakes? Does my completely ordinary family breakfast look like such a circus to outsiders that they feel compelled to help my wretched soul put food in the mouths of my snot-faced children? Maybe. And I’m ok with that.

If they perceived me as in over my head like some kind of sitcom dad who is about to be wearing his kid’s pancakes as a hat, that’s cool. Free pancakes for me. Perhaps that should be the new strategy? Sandbag my parenting skills when eating in public. Always appear to be balancing on the edge of a breakdown in front of older couples who never had kids and now the the disposable income to spend on other people’s breakfasts to show for it. Play the oafish sitcom dad card one farmer’s omelette at a time.

The truth is I probably don’t need to do that because I’m probably already there, whether I know it or not. I’ve rushed a crying kid out of the restaurant, I’ve chased them from one table of strangers to the next, I’ve gotten back in the car to head home only to realize somebody only had one shoe. All at the same brunch. But hey, that’s normal.

So thank you kind stranger for buying my family breakfast, it was greatly appreciated. And perhaps you saw something I didn’t, because not two minutes after you picked up our check, in our attempt to get jackets on and out the door we forgot to get our parking validated. After our free breakfast, we paid an extra $8 for parking.