The first rattle of a guitar string vibrated through the air, and soon the strumming rhythms had my daughter and I tapping our feet and hopping across the family room. At age four, my little Smartypants hasn't quite mastered ballroom dancing (she probably can’t demonstrate a decent Macarena either, but who can?). Her coordination fits the description of ‘goofy and awkward’, but she loves music, and when the radio plays she's smart enough to grab hold of her daddy's sentimental heart every chance she gets.
So there we were, dancing through the room, smiling and laughing, when she stopped. Her head tilted, her lips tightened, and her eyebrows raised in expectation. "Daddy," she said, "Will you dance with me?"
"Sure." I stood beside her and started dancing, but she didn't move. Correction: She rolled her eyes.
"No, Daddy. Down here."
I laughed, then collapsed to my knees and wiggled to the music.
"No, Daddy. Like this." She held out her right hand for me to hold, as though we were about to tango. "Now, Daddy, put your other hand on my back." I did.
She put her free hand on my shoulder and rested her cheek on my chest, and she said, "Good, Daddy. Now dance."
And so it began. We glided across the room (as graceful as possible when dancing on your knees with a sore back), laughing and enjoying our moment.
My thoughts became awash in anticipation, shortly followed by fear. I thought of the future, of daddy/daughter dances in grade school and dancing under a glittering spotlight on a wedding reception dance floor. We had danced together since she was a baby, but this was the first time she made the request herself. I hoped it was the first in a lifetime of dances the two of us would share.
But then I thought of that wedding again, and of boys, and of her dancing with boys, and I scowled and got angry at those boys stealing my daughter from me on the dance floor. I wanted to yell at them right then, but realized they were likely still children themselves. That doesn’t make it okay for them to take my little girl away, those little punks, but I’ll withhold my bitterness until they're older. I suppose, as a father, this is a common feeling not likely to subside until a few years after I'm dead.
But soon I returned to the moment, and realized I had a good bit of time before we danced all those dances of the future. And I know that when those dances come, I'll want to remember the first one as clearly as if it just happened. That moment, with her head on my chest, was my chance to create a memory. So I took advantage of it.
As with so many other parenting moments, I hope I never forget it.