Column | Dancing with the Dads
Any casual observer of my daily activities might accuse me of child-centered parenting, which Michael Mascolo, Ph.D., of Psychology Today defines as "parenting organized around the needs and interests of the child, rather than those of the parent."
Preposterous! My parenting isn't organized at all. Also, as the only man of the house, I only do what I darn well please, except when I'm attending and providing transportation to every type of adolescent practice and performance known to humanity, not to mention innumerable shopping trips to purchase expensive outfits and equipment - and various unmentionable lady products.
Now, don't get me wrong. I deeply love each of my three daughters, especially when they all sleep-in on Saturdays, but I can't think of a single activity in which they participate that I would voluntarily attend if doing so didn't keep me from suffering the slings and arrows of the female stink-eye.
Perhaps the ultimate demonstration of my fatherly wimposity took place recently when my eldest and most expensive daughter "voluntold" me to perform in her high school dance and drill team annual show as part of the traditional Dad Dance. The Dad Dance is an endearing little interlude in the dance show when fathers of drill team members take the stage for a dance number in a spectacle of comedic humiliation. Because my eldest daughter rarely acknowledges my existence as a fellow multi-cell organism, especially in public, I figured I had better take advantage of the opportunity to make her proud - or at least make her pity me.
When the selected dads arrived for our first practice, sheepishly vying for a position somewhere backstage, the drill team director informed us that the theme for the Dad Dance would be "Broadway Babies," and our daughters would choose a costume for us depicting a favorite Broadway character - male, female, animal or mineral. Although I offered to dress as one of the skin-tight Spandex-clad characters from my favorite stage musical, "Cats" (like I often do at home), my daughter went for the coolness factor and dressed me as Alexander Hamilton- with excess ear hair and a dad bod. Even though I haven't yet arranged for the necessary financing to see the wildly popular musical "Hamilton," I was proud of my daughter for choosing such an important character from American history, ranking right up there with Sam Adams, Dolly Madison and that guy on the Quaker Oats ads.
Next came the fun part - learning the dance routine. You need to understand that when I dance, alarmed onlookers usually rush for emergency equipment because they assume I'm on fire - and not in a good way. Luckily, the drill team director assured us that the point of the dance was not to be great dancers, but to have fun and, hopefully, avoid pulling something important. She then proceeded to take us through several flamboyant dance moves (most of them suggestive of a burlesque drag show), set to a medley of well-known stage musicals. After a few more group practices and several private performances at home that traumatized our pets, I kind of got the hang of it and began to look forward to the prospect of gettin' my groove on in front of a live audience.
I'm happy to say that I survived the two-night run of the show without throwing up, ripping my knickers, or causing a riot. And we dads did pretty well for a bunch of middle-aged dudes with the gracefulness and poise of a herd of beached manatees. We brought the audience to tears of laughter, we hope, and after the second show, my daughter ran up to me for a hug and to tell me I was the best dad dancer out there.
Am I a child-centered parent? Maybe so, but those hugs make it all worth it. Next time, though, when it comes time to choose a costume, I plan to put my Spandex-clad foot down.
Look out, "Cats," here I come!