“Oh! I loved my daddy-daughter dates. In fact, I still love my daddy-daughter dates. That time with my dad means so much to me.”
At that moment, the magnitude of our daddy-daughter dates hit me. Here is a mid-20 something co-worker who has an extremely healthy outlook on life and she is pointing to the importance of time with her father. I’ve read the literature. I know the research, but it wasn’t until this moment that I fully comprehended the investment I was making in my daughter. I guess the “fun” aspect of these dates just blinded me to the fact that they also have tremendous value to my daughter.
I quickly returned home with a new level of excitement and picked up my date for the night. She was wearing her favorite dress and asked to be carried to the van. Normally our 5-year-old walks, but this was a special day and a special opportunity to carry my princess to her chariot (which was an old car seat in a dirty van ... but you get the picture).
We arrived at our dinner spot, the local Chick-fil-A. Now normally I don’t mention a business by name in my column, but this business has made such a commitment to families in our community, I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention it. They had prepared a special table for us with a flower, a bag of chocolates and paper table cloth (the kind you could use crayons to draw on). Instead of ordering at the counter like normal, a waiter came to the table and took our order ... chicken and fries, of course.
Taking advantage of the paper table cloth, I challenged my daughter to a friendly game of tic-tac-toe. I won the first match, clearly showing who was in charge. Wanting to keep her engaged, I let her win the second match. The third match is what surprised me. In my carefree attempt to play the game while asking her questions about her favorite movie and how school was going, I got distracted (or at least that is what I am telling you). Before I knew it, she raised her hands in victory, “I win, Daddy!”
What? How did this happen? I just legitimately lost tic-tac-toe to a 5-year-old.
Her sweet smile quickly erased the agony of defeat and we continued to play. Before our meal was over we had about 20 tic-tac-toe games positioned around our table and had talked about everything that is important to a 5-year-old.
Before we left, we went to the photo booth the restaurant had arranged and got our picture with goofy props to help remember the date. We walked out of the restaurant and as she proudly held her pink balloon, she said the words that every daddy loves to hear, “This was the best date ever Daddy, I love you.”
I thought back to the conversation with my co-worker and smiled. I may stumble as a parent (often), but today, I got it right!
(Editor’s Note: Matt has a beautiful family: his wife, son, two daughters (who will give him many daddy-daughter dates long into the future), Tucker the family dog and seven chickens. Matt’s “Father Time” column is published in the Cleveland Daily Banner on alternating Wednesdays.)