‘m going to take you back to the Christmas of 2011. My then 5yo daughter had in her closet a treasure chest filled to maximum capacity with princess dresses. Every Disney princess was of course represented, as well as all sorts of other princess-y iterations of the same theme. They were all tattered and torn in a “velveteen rabbit” sort of way. For half her life she’d spent every day in one princess dress or another. Most days she had on 3 or 4 different dresses at different times during the day. But in recent months the princess dresses had stayed in the treasure chest. My little girl was growing out of her dress-up-phase.
We all gathered at the cousins’ house, as we do every Christmas Eve, for dinner and presents with that half of the family (Christmas day is typically spent with my relatives). When it’s time to open gifts we go round-robin, child by child, so that everyone gets center stage. We made it through a few rounds when it came to Episode IV’s turn again. She picked a big box from her grandma, and pulled off the wrapping paper to reveal a non-descript drab cardboard box.
She opened the lid and looked inside in such a way that nobody else in the room could see what was in the box. After furrowing her brow while examining the contents, the light bulb suddenly clicked on. Her eyes were as wide as I have ever seen them, and the smile growing on her face showed every one of her missing teeth. Without saying a single word, smile still stretched across her face, she picked up the box with its contents and ran out of the room to – who knew where – somewhere else in the house. We all sort of looked at each other amused. Nobody except grandma knew what was inside the box. We carried on with the unwrapping.
Fifteen minutes later I was engrossed in a conversation with my brother-in-law when I heard Episode IV’s grandmother say “Oh my goodness!” The entire room reacted the same. The look on my brother-in-law’s face cut our conversation short and I turned around to see this looking at me:
“Hi, Daddy” she said in a playful voice that made it clear she knew *EXACTLY* what she was doing to me at that very moment. She smiled over her shoulder and held my eyes in hers. While everyone in the room was ooh-ing and ahh-ing, all I could hear was the blood pumping in my ears. There was my little princess – my little pumpkin – my first born child – my only daughter – the sweet little baby that I brought home from the hospital – the little girl who made me a daddy… in THAT!!! She was watching me, waiting for my reaction, knowing full well how it was turning my brain inside out. And that smile on her face… that smile said everything.
It was one of those crucial parenting moments when you have to react in just the right way. Every molecule in my body was on the brink of total thermonuclear explosion. To my credit though I recognized the moment for what it was. Thermonuclear explosion wasn’t going to do any good here. Instead I sucked it up and said “Oh, honey. You look soooo beautiful. Soooo grown-up. Wow. You’d better thank Dabba for that beautiful dress.”
She did her little fashion show for the entire room, getting rave reviews from all the critics there. Although I don’t remember it – for me the whole room went dark and all I could see was my 5yo daughter walking around in THAT – I’m told that the rest of the room got as much amusement out of watching her as they did watching my reaction. Although I didn’t remember taking it, there’s a great picture of Episode IV wearing the outfit, with my mother-in-law, the giver of the gift, cracking up at me in the background.
I stayed calm. I held it together. But I assure you, just under the surface, this is what was going on:
Some of you right now may be thinking “Man, DorkDaddy sure is a drama-queen”. All I have to say to you is this:
Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. Bruce Banner and gamma rays ain’t got nothing on the father of a 5yo daughter in a wedding dress.