It was a big, important night for my daughter. One she had looked forward to for a long, long time.
She was all dressed up, with her hair done just right. I was pretty dolled up as well — I can count on one hand the number of times I have worn a suit in the past 10 years. A funeral, my wedding and a pair of dances.
I slipped a wristlet on her wrist and we prepared to head out the door for the Daddy-Daughter Dance at Chisholm Middle School. This was not the first dance of this type we had been to, but it was by far the most successful.
For a few hours, my daughter was with her daddy, and she looked at me as a hero. She was on a "date" with her knight in shining armor. We went into the gymnasium, had dinner and then danced to a few songs. I tried to teach her "The Chicken Dance" without looking like too much of a fool — and honestly not caring if i did. Looking around the gymnasium, there were a ton of dads who were not caring either.
About three years ago a non-profit had tried it, and it did not work that well. They rented a room, which added to their overhead, and had an event for a few dozen people who bought tickets in advance. They, and myself, walked away scratching our heads about why more people were not there.
My daughter, just 2 at the time, loved that event. She still remembers it. After that event, nearly every night before bed she asks if we can dance. Almost like a boyfriend and girlfriend, we have our own song — "Cinderella" by Steven Curtis Chapman. Google that. It's incredible.
For a couple years, I pined for someone to do another Daddy-Daughter Dance. Several times in the past few years I dropped the idea of a Daddy-Daughter dance in the laps of non-profit organizations and school administrators needing a fundraiser. No one ever moved forward. I knew with the right group, it would be a hit.
And then in my email there was a flier. Chisholm was giving it a try. Within a couple of hours, I was in their office buying tickets.
And I was not alone. Before anyone really knew what happened the demand for tickets outpaced the space available for the dance. There were a lot of dads — and even more daughters — that wanted to be at the dance. The flier said it would be open to the first 100 people. But those 100 tickets came and went. On the night of the dance, the announced attendance was 425 people — and there were those who wanted to be there who were turned away. The gym was at capacity.
The Chisholm PTO had hit it completely out of the park. Hard.
But more importantly, a lot of dads did as well. Some came in suits like I did. Some in blue jeans and a t-shirt. Some daughters in dresses that rival that of a prom, others in their regular school clothes. None of that mattered — there was no dress code.
All there were on this night were fathers and daughters who wanted time to have fun. A bunch of fathers who became heroes to their daughters. The challenge for me, and for other fathers there that night, is to keep being that kind of hero and dad. To not care what anyone else thinks about how you look, and to dance like the world isn't watching.
I know for certain three guys who were there that night who really get that, not including myself. They were at my table. One is a man I met for the first time that night. He had as much fun as his daughter and his love for her showed. One I go to church with, and I have always admired his skill as a father. And one who sat at the head of our table — in his wheelchair.
I will go to my grave with his image in my mind. It still brings me to tears. Him in his chair with his daughter on his lap — turning in circles as the music played. The smile on his face, and the one on hers, could have provided enough solar power to fuel the world for a century.
— Chad Frey is managing editor of the Newton Kansan. He has three children and lives in Newton. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org