Help! I've forgotten the Macarena! Most elementary schools offer some variation on the father/daughter experience--whether it comes in the form of a dance, a breakfast, a picnic, or a bar-b-que. The following ideas are intended to make you a hero to little girl and cement your place in The Father/Daughter Dance Hall of Fame, but they can also be modified to apply equally to any of the other aforementioned special events.
- Treat your daughter to a nice dinner before the dance. Picking up the check for dinner before the event pretty much guarantees quality time--for just the two of you. You will have a chance to talk to your daughter and find out a little bit about what's going on in her life. You don't have to take her to the most expensive steakhouse in town, but shoot for something better than the local McDonald's. Chili's, Islands, or Claim Jumper should be just fine.
- Buy your daughter a corsage. Call the local florist a few days before the dance and order a corsage--wrist corsages only, please--and pick it up the day of the dance and present it to her right before you leave for the evening. A mixture of roses and carnations works best. Don't be surprised if you start a trend and the following year all the girls are wearing one.
- Bring a camera for you. Dangling a camera from your wrist all night might sound like a pain, but learn to tolerate this minor annoyance. The rewards are great. You will treasure the pictures of your girl dancing, mugging with her friends, pantomiming to YMCA, and frantically hanging on to the girl in front of her during the Conga line. And how can we survive, I ask you, without hard evidence of The Little Chicken Dance?
- Bring a camera for her. Give your daughter the opportunity to preserve her own memories as well by buying her a disposable camera so she can snap pictures of her friends and teachers. Warning: This will guarantee at least one picture of you frozen in the middle of a dance move that makes you look like you need anti-anxiety medication. If you do give her a disposable camera, however, you must develop the film. Nothing is sadder than a roll of film that sits in a drawer until everyone forgets what's on it and throws it away. Respect your daughter's memories: Bring them to life.
- Spring for the professional pictures. Dig into your wallet and, if you can, spring for whatever professional photography the school might offer. And make it your first stop at the dance--you'll both look better and the line will be shorter. These pictures aren't cheap, but as souvenirs, they're priceless.
- Dress the part. Find out if the dance will be themed and then costume yourself accordingly. If it's a 50s dance, a leather jacket, white T-shirt, and jeans should work well; if it's a Hollywood theme, a sport jacket, turtleneck and slacks will suffice (a tux, while the obvious choice, is costly and unnecessary); if it's a tropical theme, a simple Hawaiian print shirt is just what the doctor ordered. Caveat: You probably don't want to be the father who shows up to the 50s dance in full Elvis regalia. At least let your daughter finish middle school before your antics send her into therapy.
- Don't forget the Yin/Yang of Father/Daughter dances. Focus on your daughter for the entire night. Don't spend the evening talking to the other dads about cars or football. Instead, compliment her on her dress, make sure she has all the snacks and drinks she can handle, ask the names of her friends--and remember them. But remember, as she gets older, she will eventually want to go off with her friends and completely ignore you. Don't be offended. She'll come back around when she wants to show you off. You're her trophy date. Deal with it.