Dancing Away With My Heart

So it’s Sunday evening. I haven’t had a moment to sit and write since the dance J went to on Friday night came and went. I’ve had so much swimming around in my head about it, and I’ve really wanted to sit down and put “pen to paper” so to speak.

Initially when I’d heard about the “Father-Daughter” dance at school I was sort of shocked. I was opposed to it on many levels. I have work friend who is a 30 year old widow with a five-year old. I have friends with children who have fathers who are not in their lives. One of my very closest friends grew up with her grandfather as the male figure in her life and was raised by her mother and her aunt. How, in 2012, are we still perpetuating the myth of the nuclear family? I mentally stomped my feet in indignance.

Last Monday, H called me at work after picking the kids up at school. “Did you know they’re having a dance on Friday at school?” she asked me. “Yes, I said. But J doesn’t have a dad, and I’m sort of irritated they are even having this event at a public school.” She said she had called J’s Godfather/Uncle J and the conversation went like this:

H: Hey, what are you doing this Friday?
Him: We have friends coming up to go to dinner and drinks
H: Ok, nevermind.
Him: Why?
H: J has this Father Daughter dance at school, and I was just wondering
Him: I’ll cancel. I’m there. Nothing’s more important than that.

I still wasn’t convinced it was the right thing to do, despite how sweet Uncle J was being. I asked her if this was the right message for J, and worried that she would feel awkward bringing her Uncle J instead of a dad. And was sending her to a “father-daughter” dance only highlighting how her family is different? Not that being different is bad, but at 5 was it too much to put on her little shoulders? H simply said that she didn’t want J to feel left out. That she shouldn’t miss out on a dance because of us, and that lots of girls would probably be there with grandpas and stepdads, and any number of “different” situations. I was skeptical, but I agreed. She said J was super excited and so was her Uncle J, and she thought it would be fun for her.

We met up to buy J a new dress (as promised to her by H). I could see the excitement on her face. I bought tickets after school behind a woman who bought three tickets – one for her daughter, one for her daughter’s father, one for her daughter’s stepfather. Hey, she has TWO dads! We ordered a boutonnière for him and a corsage for her (on his behalf at his request). I planned to leave work a little early to facilitate getting her ready since the dance started early in the evening and H wouldn’t be there to help.

The day of the dance she was so excited. Around lunchtime I started getting texts from her Uncle J with pictures of ties and asking me what he should wear. It was so adorable. I got home, got J ready, and took her downstairs to take pictures. We talked about how some girls would be at the dance with dads, some with grandpas or uncles like her, and some of them were going with their dad AND a stepdad.

Uncle J arrived looking very handsome in a black suit with a hot pink tie to match J’s dress. They exchanged flowers and we took some photos and I sent my baby girl off with her uncle into the big bad world where her family isn’t like all the other families. This felt like the first time that was really having an impact. I cried as she teared up when they left – her out of excitement, me out of both fear how this might affect her and awe that she was old enough for something like this. I hugged him, and said thank you.

Uncle J started texting me as soon as they arrived. She met up with her new friend and spent the evening dancing with her. He texted me they had their first dance to “My Girl.” Texted when they did the limbo, when they ate cookies and played games, and texted that they did the twist and texted when it was last dance. It meant a lot to me that he did that. Especially since he isn’t much of a texter.

When they got back she was pretty wired. She was on her second lollipop and was wearing a princess tiara they had given her. They arrived with three copies of their official dance photograph – one for him, one for her, and one for H and I. Uncle J changed his clothes to meet up with his wife and their friends and said goodbye to his date. She told me all about the dance, and dancing on stage with her new friend who showed her it wasn’t anything to be scared of. She changed her clothes and told me she didn’t feel ready to go to sleep yet. We hung her corsage to dry and while she may not have felt ready to go to sleep, she crashed hard.

It all happened so fast. She was out the door and back and it was over. Two hours of her life. Two hours made very special by a very loving uncle who dropped everything for her. Sure, he’s not her “dad” but isn’t that what the men in our daughter’s lives are supposed to do for them? Make them a priority? Father, grandfather, best friend, uncle, whatever? If they are choosing to be in our children’s lives, aren’t they telling us they will be there for them? Does where they live or what their official “title” is really matter?

In writing this post, I had written a whole other facet to it about some “dad” talks we had today, but truly as I wrote them it felt like they didn’t fit. We’re going to have to navigate the dad thing like families navigate religion, like families with adopted kids navigate that issue, like families navigate single parenthood, like families navigate any number of differences. The reality is the one thing that unites us all is that we are all different in many ways except the one that matters. Love.

Tell me you don’t see it?

And a few more:

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7 thoughts on “Dancing Away With My Heart

  1. oy, this post got me all teary – imagining that same scenario for my own girls someday, i guess. (and honestly, why (!??!) are schools still having these dances??)

    sounds like it ended up being a beautiful event for J, despite your trepidation in advance. the pictures are *so* sweet 🙂

  2. From the perspective of someone who did not have any male familial figures in her life (including a dad), this whole night sounds amazing for J. It’s made me all teary. So wonderful!

  3. Crying. At work. Gee, thanks! ;o)

    By the way, we have those dances at my school but we call it a VIM (Very Important Male) Dance and grandpas, uncles, even older brothers are encouraged to attend with the student. We also have a Mother/Son Bowling day, a “Father”/Son Baseball game, and Mother/Daughter Tea. We give every child a chance to participate in one of the activities throughout the year.

    By the way, my grandpa was more than enough for me – just as Uncle J is more than enough for J. Don’t ever feel that J or N are missing out on something in life because they don’t have a “dad” in their lives. They’ve got Uncle J and my J and so many more people who love them dearly and that is ALWAYS enough. Always.

  4. I love this post, even the conflict part, because it makes the situation all that more beautiful. I adore the pics of J and J with Uncle J. You’re lucky to have such a community to rally around your kids.

  5. I loved getting to watch all of that unfold and see how amazing it turned out. They both looked gorgeous and in spite of the social ins and outs of it all, it looks like J has a memory she’ll cherish for a very long time 🙂

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