The Daddy Daughter Dance
I bought a t-shirt at Target that said World’s Greatest Dad.
5 years before I had kids.
Maybe it was my mom’s influence of never passing up a deal.
Seriously, she’d buy shoes in sizes nobody in my family wore because it was a good deal.
“Mom, I don’t wear size 12.”
“I know. I’ll find someone that does. It was such a good deal.”
Or maybe, this World’s Greatest Dad t-shirt was foreshadowing. Because one day, I knew I’d have to step up, do the right thing, and be everything my kids would want me to be.
Which brings us to the Daddy Daughter Dance of 2018.
My daughter was 8 years old and this was about her 11th year in competitive dance. Trust me, this is how dance math works. It also costs a billion dollars.
Every year, her studio would put on a Daddy Daughter Dance for the recitals at the end of the year. I could never do one before. Not because I lack dance skills (ever hear the Bye Bye Bye story?), but because I could never make it to any of the rehearsals.
But this year was different.
We were scheduled to practice for 6 Sundays in a row leading up the recitals in May. Sweet, I could do that.
Before I could even put my name on the list though, my wife signed me up.
It was set.
The day came for practice number one.
About 40 dads and their daughters showed up to have some fun and see what we were getting ourselves into.
I was not mentally prepared (and nowhere near physically prepared) for what was coming next.
Our song was The Greatest Show from the movie The Greatest Showman. Good song. Better movie.
Our instructor started guiding us through all of our moves. And she was good.
“Okay, first you’ll be on your knees, then you’ll slam the floor, then jump up, turn to one side…”
It was slow enough where we kept up. And easy enough where we didn’t have to think about it.
Then she switched.
“After the turn, you’ll do a handstand and kick your legs in the air…”
Whoa, whoa, whoa, what?
I haven’t done a handstand since 1990 never. My chicken arms don’t exactly support my golf pro frame.
“Then you’ll get on your back, kick your legs in the air, turn sideways, kick again, turn back around, do a somersault and jump up as high as you can.”
Everyone in the room starting laughing.
Now, in this room of 40 dads, there were about 5 in great shape, 10 in not great shape at all, and a ton in the middle. I was a middle guy. Even the thought of doing a handstand and somersault had me laughing.
But it was for our daughters.
So the majority of us tried it.
And it looked exactly like you’d think it would.
A bunch of middle aged dads in cargo shorts with ironic t-shirts trying not to kill themselves while doing something they probably didn’t think they could.
But that’s the funny thing about belief. If you’d don’t think you can do it, you won’t. And if you give it a shot… well, you never know what could happen.
Out of the dads that tried these moves, most of us were mildly successful. Apart from the fact that we were sweating profusely through our ironic t-shirts.
After 2 hours of that first practice, we were done.
I had fun. My daughter loved laughing at me. And we were ready to learn more next week.
For the next 5 Sundays, we had rehearsals and practiced.
Here’s how the dance worked…
At the beginning of the song, all the dads were on the stage by themselves doing a dance for the first 30 seconds or so. Then, 4 groups (all based on ages of the daughters) would (for lack of a better term) be showcased one at a time. My daughter and I were in group 1, which meant after my dad part, I’d just stay on stage and my daughter would come out and join me.
Oh yeah. There were only 5 dads in group 1. And I was front and center.
After group 1 was done, we’d leave and group 2 would come out, until all 4 groups had a chance. Then everyone would come back out for the finale.
It sounds more complicated than it really was. But there were definitely a lot of moving parts.
By the time recital days (yeah plural) came along, we were ready.
The recitals were a weekend long thing. 4 on Saturday (for about 2-3 hours each) and 1 on Sunday night (for another 3-4 hours). Our 3 minute dance was the second to last for each recital. Dance math.
On Saturday, we got our costumes.
Ever see a middle aged dad in a sleeveless black t-shirt covered in animal hide equipped with a fur skin headband and wristbands?
Okay, well at least you have that image in your head now.
Seriously, we looked liked hipster cavemen.
I was waiting for someone to ask me to open a brewery.
The dads were pretty loose that day of the first recital. We knew it wasn’t about us, so that helped. And we also knew we weren’t expected to be that good. We just had to try.
When it was our turn to go on, we made our way backstage and lined up in our 4 rows. I was in the back to start, then had to make my way up to the front during group 1.
The dads started the song just like we practiced. Then, each group came out. Then the finale.
It went well.
Everyone laughed, had fun, and we were excited to do it again in a few hours.
Every performance on Saturday went great. Some were a little better than others. But overall, for a bunch of dads, we did okay.
On Sunday night, we had one last performance.
We had no reason to believe that anything other than awesomeness would happen.
We were wrong.
When it was our turn to go on, we lined up in our 4 rows, just like on Saturday.
But I noticed that the guy who had been to my left all of Saturday was now 2 to my right.
I was confused.
Maybe he was told to switch for some reason. I just didn’t know.
We started the dance the exact same way. We slammed the floor, we jumped up, we did our spin. But since the guy to my left was now on the other side, it made things a bit tight.
Then it happened.
During the part where we had to do a handstand and kick our feet in the air, we did exactly that.
The problem was, that since our back row was a little tighter than Saturday, the guy to my right kicked his feet in the air...
And booted me right in the face.
I instantly went down.
Which was convenient since that was the part where I was supposed to be on my back kicking my legs up in the air anyway.
Not sure if my legs went up. But I could feel my right eye getting puffy.
I went through the last few moves before it was my turn to lead group 1 to the front of the stage.
By now, my eye was dripping blood and I could barely see anything.
My daughter ran out to front of the stage and jumped on my shoulders, exactly like we had rehearsed.
We went through every move. And we were good. Maybe our best of the weekend.
As group 1 went off stage, I looked at my daughter and said, “I got kicked in the face, how does my eye look?”
She got this horrified look on her face and immediately started crying.
Now... I had to console her and make sure she stopped crying because she had one more dance after ours.
And... I had to try to get my eye to stop bleeding.
All of this while trying to explain to the other girls why there was a Nike swoosh plastered to my forehead.
My brain went back in time and that t-shirt spoke to me.
No, not the animal fur sleeveless thing.
The World’s Greatest Dad t-shirt.
I got my daughter to stop crying long enough to make it through her final dance. I assured the other girls that I was just fine. And, well, I didn’t exactly get my eye to stop bleeding, but by some dumb luck, it started slowing down.
And after everything…
We made it through.
We kept fighting.
We didn’t let something bad turn into something worse.
And when that size 12 to the temple could have put me out, I didn’t let it.
We go through many obstacles in our lives.
Some are big things, but most are just minor inconveniences.
Things that annoy us or try to keep us down.
Don’t let them.
Keep pushing. Keep fighting. Keep a positive attitude.
Because on that night in May, with 40 sleeveless-shirt-wearing-middle-aged-dads dancing their hearts out, smiling and laughing with their daughters, one guy got leveled by a Nike.
And that was truly The Greatest Show.