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.