The trouble with parenting is that nobody ever gives you a manual on how to do it. Sure, we can recall instances of our youth when the choices our parents made affected us positively or negatively and we can remember thinking, “I’ll never do that when I’m a parent.” We can build on those times and it helps shape who we are and who we want to become. It prepares you for the hard stuff; it toughens you.
That being said, nobody ever mentions the weird stuff…
It was today. I woke up very excited to take my four-year-old to her first ballet class. My Iowa Hawkeyes’ miserable season had come to an end and Saturdays are now officially dance days. This was a class my daughter asked to go to. She prances around the house in her pink tutu and ballerina slippers, pretending to be whatever character just blasted her way across the “Disney Princess Highway.” I am head-over-heels, absolutely, 100% smitten by her; if she wants to dance, then she’s going to dance! We enrolled her in ballet the first chance we got.
Did I mention my daughter is shy?
Not just a little shy, BIG SHY. As in she-won’t-even take-a-sticker-from-the-doctor’s-hand-at-the-doctor’s-office shy. She makes me take the sticker from the doctor, which I then give to her. When I take her to get her hair cut, she sits perfectly still, like a small, terrified statue. She does not move unless someone physically picks her up to move her. THAT’S how shy. My wife said she was the same way when she was that age. So, I really should have known ballet class was going to be an adventure…
Tip: Take it from me: if your kid is too shy, they’re going to follow your lead in regards to whether or not she opens up to the people in the classroom. Smile, be polite and soft-spoken, but most of all, DO NOT LOOK OVERWHELMED. The others parents in the classroom and most importantly, your child, will catch on and you begin to look like an amateur. You want to exude confidence, and eventually your kid will catch on and start to feel comfortable.
Did I mention I sweat profusely?
Like Angus from the movie Angus. You know you’ve seen that movie. (FYI, if you have not seen Angus, Netflix it now.) I sweat just standing… seriously. I do not know why. I do not smell, I just sweat. I remember when I played football in high school I would be drenched minutes into practice. When I was in the military, same story. I was soaked all of the time. I have to wear a suit for my day job. Do you know what it’s like to have to wear a long-sleeved shirt and suit jacket during the summer time when you’re a walking sweat factory? Seriously, it’s my curse.
Tip: You are in luck, over-sweaters, because this one has an easy fix! Wherever you go, carry a sweat rag. Do not carry a towel, they are too big. Carry a standard-sized washcloth, preferably extremely absorbent terrycloth. Do not use new ones…take one from the kitchen, fold it up and shove it in your pocket. The older the rag, the more absorbent it is…don’t ask me why, but it’s something I’ve learned over time.
Anyway, I held my daughter’s little hand as we walked into the dance studio today. “Watch for cars,” she says to me, as we crossed the parking lot. Once we got inside, I removed her jacket and helped her slip her ballet shoes onto her feet. By this time, I was a sweaty mess, so I decided to take my jacket off to cool down. That’s when I noticed the people starting to stare.
Did I mention I was the only dad there?
At first, I thought the seven other moms there were just staring because I was the only male in the room. Not surprising, but would that really cause such a scene? Then I figured it was because I was dabbing my forehead with a rag I magically procured from my pocket, wiping left-to-right and quickly making the rag disappear back into the pocket. That might be weird, especially for a winter in Minnesota. But, no – I realized had forgotten about my tattoos.
Tip: When you are in a room full of women as the only representative of the male gender, you must show your confidence, but more importantly, pay attention. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with what to do and when and how to do it, but that’s when you’ll get eaten up. You don’t want to look like a chump; the way I think of it is like in Mr. Mom. He drove the wrong way at school pick-up, lost his kids in the grocery store, and didn’t even know what ham to buy at the market. Eventually, with a little help from some moms, he caught on to the intricacies of motherly duties, such as ballet class etiquette, and he became top dog. Take it from Michael Keaton: stick with it, use your powers of observation, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and you’ll be a pro.
Did I mention I am covered in tattoos?
Not just any tattoos, but tattoos of my horror heroes covered in blood, with Freddy Krueger grinning as he claws his way down my forearm. Yeah, I was sweating, toweling off and terrifying their children with my R-rated tattoos. Just another day in the life as Dad. There are always these kinds of moments where you stop and think to yourself, “What am I doing here?” The moments that I never expected myself to be smack dab in the middle of; my Rob Zombie ink getting an evil eye from the mother across the room.
Tip: When you find yourself being stared at by the local uptight PTA moms because of your inappropriate tattoos, you really need to keep your composure. All eyes are on you and now you are at the fork in the road where you look either like cool dad or like dorky dad. Take my advice: forget about them looking at you and just remain calm and collected. If you look frustrated, you will look like a dad who is out of his element. Moreover, no sweaty, tattooed, big guy who used to hit people with steel chairs and be paid for it is going to look like a fool in ballet class! No way sister, not this guy! As long as you maintain your composure, you will look like a pro.
Well, by now you may have guessed my daughter was too shy to dance at her first lesson. Even when the young, sweet, dance instructor approached the big, sweaty, monster-tattooed father to try to get him to get his kid out onto the dance floor, my daughter still would not budge. I begged her to go out and dance. I promised an afternoon of anything she wanted for lunch. Didn’t work. I tried to bribe her with allowing he her to watch extra television show when we got home. No go. I even tried to gain her cooperation by allowing her to open a Christmas present early. She still denied me. Shot down! Seven mothers, seven daughters, and two dance instructors watching this guy on his knees begging his daughter to go dance. (There is that feeling of “How did I get here?” again.)
“Daddy, I’m shy. Can we please go home?” she asked. I took a deep breath, wiped the sweat from my brow and smiled.
“Okay sweetie, since you asked nicely.” I caved; I couldn’t help it. I picked her up and made the walk of shame, dad-style, past the other mothers, past the little daughters, and past the two dance instructors.
“Daddy, can we come back next week?” Quietly, while we were finally away from everyone else.
I sat her down in the hallway and looked her in the eyes. “Okay,” I said, wrapping her up in her pink jacket and placing her tiara back on her head. “But mommy is going to do it instead.”
Tip: This last one is pretty simple, but the most important. Hug your kids and love them and never let them give up!
This guest article is by Mike Kinney, or as he is known in the pro-wrestling world, Cowboy Gator Magraw. He writes for HalloweenCostumes.com, which sells tutus for your tiny dancer.