A small disclaimer…Melodee and Amanda don’t know about this. The first they will hear of it is when I post it to Melodee’s blog. I am honestly not sure of the reaction I will get. I gave up a long time ago trying to predict the reactions of those two. It’s a game I can’t win. So, I’ll just post it and hope for the best. JD.
A few days ago I went to a Father-Daughter Dance with our oldest, Amanda. It was quite an experience…
I won’t waste your time with details about the event itself. It was just a gathering of young girls (ages 10-17) with their dads as their “dates”. It was billed as being ‘semi-formal’.
Melodee gave Amanda one of her formal evening gowns. While it’s beginning to look like Amanda might soon be as tall as Melodee (Melodee claims she’s 5’9″, but she’s closer to 5’10”), she’s only about 5’3″ now. Needless to say, the gown needed some alterations, but Melodee has a great seamstress who fixed that right up.
Don’t ask me too much about the gown. I have no clue of the maker or even the cost. I know Melodee had the gown for several years, and she never buys evening gowns off-the-rack. I’d bet dollars to donuts that it is a designer gown and cost as much as the GDP of some small countries.
What I do know is that it is a soft lavender color with lots of lace, some kind of sparkly things, and a bunch of buttons and bows.
As for me, I planned on wearing a tie and a sport coat. As you might have guessed, that idea didn’t fly with either Amanda or Melodee. I ended up in one of my good suits and all the trimmings. In retrospect, I’m glad I did wear the suit. All the other dads went full tilt as well, so I fit in much better than I would have in a sport coat.
I have, of course, seen Melodee in the gown before…I think I saw her wear it two, maybe three times to events. But I didn’t see Amanda in the modified gown until we were about to leave.
Amanda will be 12 very soon, but she’s growing up fast. Even to me, she looks more like she’s 16 or 17, maybe even a little older. She acts more like she’s pushing 20. I’ll be the first to admit that I would be more than happy for Amanda to stay a little girl forever. I think that all fathers can relate to that and will understand where I’m coming from. But I also know that she won’t be that precocious kid for very much longer. Just because I know this, that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
The first time I saw the gown on Amanda was when Melodee and her walked into the living room as we were getting ready to go. She was absolutely gorgeous. Again, I want to remind you that Amanda is my daughter, but Melodee adopted her when we were married. When Amanda stood there in that gown, her hair and makeup just perfect and blushing just a little, it really hit me how amazing it is that Melodee and Amanda are from two different gene pools.
I don’t know how much “coaching” Melodee did, if any, but Amanda had the same grace, poise, and charm that Melodee has. Despite the blush, Amanda was totally in control and her self-confidence radiated from her like a beacon in the dark. She moved with the same fluid-like elegance that I find so fascinating about her mom.
And the whole thing made me outrageously uncomfortable.
Amanda and I walked to the truck and I helped her get in, the only time during the “date” where she showed any hesitation as she worked to get into the tall truck with a long gown, and we headed off to the event.
We rode a way in silence, but Amanda finally asked me, “Do I look alright, dad?”
I smiled a little in the darkness, but I doubt she could see that in the dim dashboard lights. “Yes, little one, you look amazing…very pretty.”
She didn’t respond for a while. “This is kind of weird, isn’t it?”
I can never lie to any of the women in my life. “A little, yeah.”
“If you would rather not go, I’m cool with that.”
I hesitated a moment, thinking about how uncomfortable I felt, but there was never any real question in my mind. “No, I want to go.”
I shrugged inside my Armani, but again I doubt Amanda saw it. “Because I want to show off my beautiful daughter to everyone I can.”
Amanda didn’t speak again until we were turning into the parking lot. “Thanks, dad.”
After I backed the truck into a spot, I asked, “Thanks for what?”
“For saying I’m beautiful.”
I had no answer for that, so I helped her down from the truck, and we went inside.
The dance was an odd mixture of old-school things from the time when I—and I assume most of the other dads—was in my teens and more current things that the daughters there could relate to. There was music from the 80s and 90s as well as the latest sounds from the more recent Billboard lists. There were soft drinks, tea, and even a big bowl of punch to drink, and various snacks to indulge in.
As I looked around the room, I saw dozens of pretty young women in gowns and dresses, some looking strangely out of place because I knew them more as tom-boys in jeans and flannel shirts with ball caps. Every single one of the young ladies was pretty in the extreme.
But more, I saw an equal number of adult men in suits and ties—some of them also looking out of place because many are better known and more often seen in the clothing of ranchers, farmers, and self-employed business owners. And every single one of the men looked as uncomfortable as I felt.
While the music was varied, almost all of it was slow, a concession made to the fathers in attendance who would likely be unable to dance to the faster numbers, and for that I was thankful. At least I was thankful until it came time to dance with Amanda.
I have danced with Amanda in the past. In fact, I have danced with her more times than I can even begin to remember. You know what I mean…she would stand on my feet as I moved around, her small arms reaching up to hold my hands as we crossed the floor. I remember what just seems like yesterday when she and I danced at the reception after Melodee and I were married, her little white dress spinning in the air as we whirled about and her face filled with childish happiness and laughter spilling from her lips.
But now, as we walked to the dance floor, things were very different. Amanda was no longer a little girl. She didn’t need to reach up to hold my hands, and the child was gone. As I held my oldest child and we danced to the slow tune, I realized that Amanda really is growing up.
The term “young woman” took on a real meaning, not just words to cover some unclear concept that no one really understands. While at 12, Amanda is still years from being an adult, she is equally as far from being a child. She’s caught someplace in the middle, someplace between the innocence of childhood and the reality of adulthood.
It was at that moment when two very important facts came into my mind…
First, I was thankful for Melodee being there. What do I know about molding a girl into a woman? How can I possibly understand the things that Amanda needs to know about being a woman? How could I ever hope to teach her those things, even if I knew what they are? Melodee is better able to do that than I, and she is doing a wonderful job of it.
And second, I knew that I have to get my desire for Amanda to stay a little girl out of the picture. I am convinced that my desires will get in the way of Amanda becoming the woman she can—and must—become. It is this fact that had been making me uncomfortable all evening. I knew, somehow, down inside that this was the point where I needed to let go of Amanda the child and see her as Amanda the young woman.
No, Amanda isn’t a little girl anymore.
But she will always be my Little Girl.