Our dates talked with their mouths full during dinner. The night was filled with wild mood swings—laughter one moment, tears the next. One young lady fell in the parking lot on the way into the dance. There was no way that our dates could drive themselves home at the end of the evening.
No, they weren’t intoxicated. They were preschoolers.
Each Valentine’s Day, my daughters and I put our finest clothes on for the Father-Daughter Dance at our local YMCA. I first took Annabelle when she was not quite 2-years-old. After walking into the mini-prom in the gym, she chugged punch, ate a frosted heart-shaped cookie, danced hard for about two minutes, asked me to pick her up, and promptly barfed onto my shirt and tie. I LOVE this memory.
This year Annabelle’s little sister was on my other arm. They both talked about this dance a lot for the past two weeks. As we got in the car, my 3-year-old said (very matter-of-factly), “Let’s go have a magical time.” Darn right, honey.
We pre-gamed at a friend’s house with other dads and a gaggle of impish preschoolers. After a round of pizza and milk, we tried to keep our pint sized dates from wiping their pizza-grease-soaked hands on our sport coats. Let’s not kid ourselves; these are the nicest clothes we own.
The gym was blinged out much like my own high school dances were, ones that I don’t miss. Except this time the dance floor was full of young girls ranging in age from toddlers to tweens dancing energetically to pop music, while dad tries to remember how to move with anything resembling rhythm.
The highlight this time around—and I hate to admit this—was when the DJ played that song from Frozen that we have all heard 175,000 times in the past year. Everyone sang along. I watched one dad with tattoo sleeves on both arms, a shaved head, and a burly beard sing every word as he bounced next to his pre-teen. My daughters both sang and acted along, using sweeping arm movements in their own private Princess Elsa auditions.
After about 90 minutes, we were spent. Annabelle sat down in the middle of the dance floor, and Clara’s dancing had regressed to a slow, tired bob of the head. We headed out, and picked up our dance picture from the amazingly cheery Mike Williams as we left.
In the picture, I look like the proud, somewhat overwhelmed dad that I am. Clara is beaming. And Annabelle is stone-faced. She was too cool to smile this year. I get the feeling that the future is coming fast.
And that’s really the point. These moments are fleeting. I remember when we moved to Missoula in 2003 and met people who had preschoolers. Now those kids are applying to colleges. It just doesn’t seem like 2003 was that long ago. I shudder to think how quickly 2027 will be here.
I can’t slow time. But I can celebrate the wonderful people that my daughters are becoming, and I can do fun things that I am sure we will all remember. The Y’s Father-Daughter Dance is one of these moments.
I’ll see you there next year.