The Princess’ First Ball

Ella, the Dancing Queen.

I’ve been married for almost eleven years. For all that we’ve been through together as a couple, nothing in my life with Rachel was as hard (or as embarrassing) as our first date. It was, to be honest, an unmitigated disaster. I was nervous. I was over-talkative. I was braggadocious. I was rude. I was insufferable.

It was so bad, she didn’t talk to me the last 45 minutes of the date. So bad she didn’t even say goodbye when she got out of the car. So bad, I called and apologized to her the next day.

(Which is why there was a second date…and a marriage. But I’m digressing.)

Tonight, I’m going out on another first date, and I’m worried that I’ll screw this one up too. I’m taking Ella to our first Daddy-Daughter Dance at Trip Elementary.

She’ll wear a dress. I’ll wear…whatever her and Rachel pick out for me. We’ll have snacks. She’ll get a corsage. We’ll get our picture taken together. And at some point, because she loves to dance more than almost anything, we’ll get out on the dance floor and boogie for a while.

Honestly, I’m nervous. I want her to be proud of me. I want her to feel special. I don’t want to embarrass her, or treat this like a waste of time. I want to set the bar high for whichever unlucky kid comes to my door to ask her out on a date (unlucky, because they’ll have to deal with me for at least an hour before taking Ella anywhere).

I’m also nervous because my history with school-sponsored dances is spotty at best. I was ditched at 2 of the 3 homecoming dances I attended, and I can’t even mention prom without throwing up in my mouth a little (let’s just say I opted out of the first dance under the guise of not wanting to waste my time–when the reality was I didn’t have the guts to ask someone–and the second one…well, I don’t quite remember what happened. I think I did something stupid and so did someone else).

So the idea of blowing my daughter’s first dance, my princess’ first royal ball, is turning my stomach into the single largest producer of acid this side of the 1970’s.

But mostly, I’m nervous because I want to earn what happened in my kitchen this morning. I was trying to get the coffee ready, and Ella was avoiding getting dressed for school. She was pushing my patience, really, and I was about ready to get sharp with her. Suddenly, she just wraps her arms around my waist, tucks her head against my hip and says, “I can’t wait for tonight! It’s just time for me to be with you, just us!”

And then she skipped away to try on her third outfit of the morning.

I felt like a superhero. Ella never asks for time alone with me, so I compute that as her not needing time alone with me. But I should know, after nearly 11 years of marriage, that not all needs get communicated verbally.

I should know, really, because little girls need time with their daddies. Period.

So in a few moments I’ll go get her off the bus, bring her home, show her the selection of dresses that her mother has laid out for her, and we’ll decide on her outfit (complete with shoes and hair accessories). Then, we’ll traipse to my closet and let her pick out what I’m wearing. After that we’ll have dinner, and then we’ll head to the dance–just me and Ella, holding hands, laughing ourselves silly, her telling me to stop being ridiculous but then begging me to do something funny.

And in these moments I’ll probably relax and realize that I’m not trying to win my daughter’s heart; I’ve already won it. What I’m doing is preparing her heart for whoever comes along to win it later.

That’s a big responsibility, and it adds to the nerves. But in a good way.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and shave. And find a nice clean shirt.

After all, it’s not everyday that you get to take a princess to her first ball.

5 thoughts on “The Princess’ First Ball

  1. You have me crying at work again! Have a blast Jason! I know you will have so much fun and Ella will too! She’s growing up so fast!


  2. Such lovely words. Emily has been going on to the father daughter dance for many years now but it is still one of her favorite things. She is going on her date with dad tomorrow night. I know Ella will have a wonderful time.


  3. Ditto the crying thing with Diana, except, lucky me, I’m alone, in a quiet room at my home coumputer. I thought at first it was my age that prompted the tears, but I got to thinking about my own Father (I’m the oldest of 4 girls) and began to think about what “alone” time I personally would have shared given his busy schedule and the number of other people (girls) in the family vieing for his time.

    I can’t remember a Father Daughter dance, but I remember he traveled every week, gone Monday through Thursday night, and played golf on the weekends. Golf was his passion and pastime. But, his family was first, and his girls were his life. He never played golf on Sunday morning, that was reserved for church with the family, and when he did play, he came directly home to be sure he had Sunday dinner with the family and “extended family” that his girls would have invited! Alone time (?), well, there was the occassional “road” trip each of us would have taken with Dad at some point in each of our lives. A business call for Dad, with one special daughter in tow. I spent time with Dad at his work bench in the basement, watching him, and learning how to fix everything and anything that would have been placed on the bench that week, during his absence, which followed for the rest of his life as we all brought our items for repair to his home “workshop”. In the winter, he sharpened our ice skates and his own, then shoveled off snow from the pond at the golf course and taught each of us (and many other kids) how to ice skate and hold a hockey stick. After all, he was the All State Hockey star player who earned a full ride scholarship to Brown University, (unfortunatly, WWII interrupted that part of his life). He taught me how to wallpaper, which looking back, I can’t remember how many rooms I have papered over the course of my life. That was one of the special things he did with me. He would take us all to the local park, rent bikes and we would ride for hours, he taught us to appreciate the meaning of being a family and how important that is and would be, during the entire course of his life, and continue in our own. He taught us to appreciate singing, especially, the “old” songs!

    Although, I’m sure he was dissapointed that none of his children took up golf for sport or competitively, it was not for lack of his time and efforts in taking each of us to the course and trying to teach us the game/sport that came so naturally to him. We do all have a genuine appreciation of the game because of his love of the game. I just loved to be on the course with him, whether it was just watching him practice, (he always brought extra clubs for me to “practice”, too) or while he played competitively. It was a special time to be together.

    He lovingly walked each of his 4 daughters down the isle to greet their groom — sorry to say that some didn’t work out, while he and his “first wife”, (as he would say of my Mother), lasted 65 years!

    So looking back, although the “alone” time we each had with our Dad, was not always, truly alone, there was never any time that we couldn’t call on him
    and he would be there for each of us in our personal time of need.

    Jason, it’s not just the occassional “date” night with your daughter, and I hope that there will be many of those during your lifetime, but it’s all of the precious little moments that will fill your lives, you will share with both Ella and Jon, that will be remembered and cherished.

    You are an amazing father and husband, teacher, preacher and pretty good writer, too! I hope during your ministery, you will share your experience(s) with other young fathers in the hope of encouraging patience, love and bonding of fathers and daughters and fathers and sons, especially, in this world of instant gratitude and profound dribble our children (grand children) are exposed to on a daily basis of people acting badly, someone has to set them straight, so they have a road they can follow with pride and trust that will lead to, well, happiness and home to God.

    Thank you for allowing me to ramble and try to get my point across….hope the dance and date with Ella is wonderful for both of you! I too, will look for the pictures that I know will follow!


  4. Ella will be so excited to be there with you it won’t matter what you do. I loved my Dad so much and so unconditionally, it didn’t matter to me what he did as long as he was with me. Even when I became an adult, he was always so special to me. She will feel the same way and I know you will have a great time. Just cherish every moment, have fun, act silly, make faces, do silly dances, whatever she wants. It goes by so quickly and you’ll both remember it forever. Take pictures and tell me all about it…….or I’ll get it firsthand from my Ella Bella. That will be the best!! Love you both!


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