First off, as a man who has been married for more than sixteen years, I’m not exactly in a big hurry to go on anymore “first dates.” If they never happen again, I would obviously be just fine with that.
Second, my whole reason for writing this. This is our little girl, Bianca. She is seven years old.
We went to our first Father-Daughter Ball last night and we had a blast. It lasted for four hours and we did a lot of dancing. A LOT.
The food was pretty good also. Normally, when you think of the dinner that would be served at a ball, what comes to mind? Probably a whole lot of stuff that wouldn’t fill up any normal person. When my wife and I went to the Army Ball back in June, the dinner served there was a small portion of salad and some pieces of grilled chicken, if I remember correctly. I can’t recall the rest of exactly what we had, but it really wasn’t much. However, at the ball last night, it was a buffet. Now they served salad and grilled chicken there as well, but they also had macaroni and cheese. Hot dogs. Chicken tenders. French fries. Cookies and ice cream. The dinner at a Father-daughter ball is where it’s at. Can’t go wrong going to an event where kids are the main guests of honor as far as dinner is concerned.
As for the ball itself, I know exactly how important this was to her. Something like this will lay the foundation of how men are supposed to treat her and very likely begin to shape her opinion of men in general.
However, I was very nervous as we approached the time to leave. I’m very certain that I had never been more nervous on any first date I’d ever gone on and will likely never be that nervous on any possible first date in the future. Here is why.
I was obviously that nervous for a much different reason than I would be going on a first date with a grown woman who of course, is not my daughter. But in knowing the magnitude of what I was responsible for, that’s certainly enough to put pressure on anyone, and I absolutely wanted it to be that way.
I am still very often amazed at how much Bianca adores me as her father. She is very much a daddy’s girl. I’ve always wanted to be a father and I feel absolutely blessed each day I wake up as one. I’ve always wanted to have children so I can teach them the important things about life. We also have one son, Jamal, who is 10 years old. So we have one of each and of course, my responsibilities are different with each child.
As for how Bianca views me as her father, there are so many ways she emulates me and the strange part is that most of the time, I don’t even realize she’s noticing the stuff I’m doing. Now I set a good example for her, so I’m not concerned about what she sees. I don’t curse around our children and I do things like push in my chair when getting up from the table, clean up behind myself when I make messes and things like that. I always say “please” and “thank you,” along with saying “I’m sorry” (yes, to my children) when I do something wrong. Sure, as an adult, this is really nothing special, but when I see my children copying me in those aspects, I am so proud of them and I feel like I’m doing a decent job as a father.
When I see Bianca emulate me in a lot of these ways, sometimes there’s really no words for it. Just to be clear, I understand that with our son, the way I behave is just as important, because he will learn how to be a MAN from me. I have a blog post in mind for him as well. Check back in later for that one.
Anyway, as for Bianca, again, I am so amazed that as a seven-year-old, she has a lot of behaviors that older children and goodness, even adults don’t have. Not to leave her mother, my wife, out of this, because she does an amazing job as well. But the relationship between a daughter and her father is a very special one. I understand that everything she does well isn’t directly because of me, but most of it is. It’s really that simple. This isn’t to brag. If the blame can be put on me if she doesn’t behave, then the credit can be given when she does. I am very proud that she looks up to me in the manner she does to where, at least right now, much of what she does is a result of what I’ve taught.
Again, don’t read this as “Well my wife doesn’t do X, Y, and Z.” This isn’t about bashing her in any way and goodness knows, I can’t even imagine how anyone could read it that way. This is to focus on my relationship with my daughter.
As for the ball, I did all the things I was supposed to. I took her by the hand to the car. I opened the door for her. I started to remind her of how to sit down when wearing a dress, but she told me herself. She said, “Dad…I know that I have to sit down like this because I have a dress on.” When she first began wearing dresses, I called it a “princess rule.” Always smooth the dress down in the back when sitting down and keep your legs closed. Each time she didn’t do that before, I would just say, “Bianca…remember the princess rule,” and right away, she’d say it and then she did it.
When we got to the ball, we started with professional pictures. She was nervous and didn’t want to do it at first because of the flash, but I told her that I didn’t really care for the flash, either. It honestly doesn’t bother me that much, but I didn’t want to just dismiss her concerns by saying, “Oh, don’t worry about it. It’ll be okay.” There’s nothing wrong with saying that, but I think sometimes, our children feel better about their concerns when we show them that we may have them as well. So I pretended to be bothered by it also. I said, “You know…I don’t really like the big flash, either.” She gave me that big, adorable smile and I saw a look of relief on her face after I said that and we did just fine. After we were done, she said, “Dad, I didn’t even blink with the flash.” I gave her a high-five.
We went into the main ballroom and we danced for most of the evening, aside from having dinner and dessert. They also had tables where everyone could do coloring and some arts and crafts. The good folks there also handed out bubble containers so kids could blow bubbles. I pulled out her chair when she sat down and again, I did dance with her for most of the time.
Now, a few of her friends said they would be there and honestly, her mind was on them quite a bit once they showed up. Which was another reason for my nervousness.
One big reason I’m still amazed about how she looks up to me is that many times, I don’t even realize that she’s paying attention to me. Often, I think she’s totally blowing me off. Those of you with kids this young know what I mean. You’ll say something to them and they will look at you like you are the absolute furthest thing from their minds. Then they often totally forget what you’ve said. So as the years go by, you sort of get the idea of when they’re listening and when they aren’t.
On the surface, Bianca didn’t seem to care about me opening doors for her. When I pulled out her chair, she was looking around for her friends. When I turned to face her each time she wanted to talk to me as we sat down, it seemed her mind was everywhere else. As the night wound down as we danced and she began to get tired, I doubt she really noticed the slow dance song at the end. Her dad being silly with the other dads and dancing to all the “girly” songs was funny to her, but it was likely not much different than the other funny stuff he’s done.
When Bianca picked up on all the other things I’ve done, most of the time, I didn’t notice them. So I often wondered last night…what of this will she pick up? Am I really shaping her lifelong view of men and laying the foundation in just this evening alone? Is she really going to remember that I opened the doors for her or pulled out her chair?
I know that it will take more than that for her to learn about men, but sometimes I do wonder just how big of a night last night was for her. It’s hard for me to really think of things from a seven-year-old’s mindset, so I really can’t imagine what she was thinking. I just know that at the end, as I carried her back to the car, she asked, “Dad, when’s the next father-daughter dance?” I said, “You want to go again?” and then she said, “Yes! This was so much fun!”
I really truly want for her to learn about how men are supposed to treat her and I certainly have no problem being the one to teach her. If she did learn a lot from me last night, then I’m glad. I sincerely hope I taught her all the right things. Again, it’s not about just last night, but if our first “date” together was to lay the foundation of how men are to treat her, I hope more than anything that the foundation was a strong one.
I put so much pressure on myself when it comes to a lot of things and many times, I’m always wondering if I am making that positive impression on my little girl. Sometimes, I am so afraid of letting her down. Am I teaching her all of what she needs to know about men? Are the things I do for her mother registering with her as to how a man is supposed to treat a woman without giving her the impression of being “helpless”? In understanding that the way I am and last night could possibly have a lifelong effect, even though I wouldn’t have it any other way, last night had me honestly more nervous than any other first date I’ve ever been on and likely will ever be on. I am certain that there is no female out there and mean absolutely NONE, in which I am or will ever be as big in her world as I am in my daughter’s. That is the reason I was so nervous last night and just nervous at times in general…because I really want to do this right.
Then again, wait…what am I so concerned about? I’m not letting her date until she’s fifty. I almost forgot about that. Whew…I feel SO much better now.