One night while putting our then 3½ year old daughter to bed something happened that had a big impact on me. Each evening before bed our daughter gets to pick two books from her shelf for daddy to read, and that night I was in the middle of reading her “Cinderella” when she asked me something.
We’d just gotten to the part where Cinderella first meets the prince at the ball, and he asks her to dance. My daughter jumped up and said, “Let’s do that!” I’m ashamed to say my first thought was, “I’m too tired tonight to pretend to be the prince and dance around your bedroom.” That’s when it happened.
A song by Steven Curtis Chapman, coincidentally named “Cinderella”, popped into my head, and in a flash I was on my feet twirling my little girl around the room in an atrocious facsimile of a waltz. Sure, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli of Dancing with the Stars would have both given me a 0, but I didn’t care.
If you’ve listened to this song, I think you’ll understand what caused my rather rapid change of attitude. As tired as I was, I knew there would be a day in the future when my little girl would stop asking me to dance. I never want to look back and realize I’d missed these few magical, fleeting moments.
I wrote a post a while back about a parent who wakes one morning to find a note from his adult daughter; a note he doesn’t like. The twist: at the time he found the note, that same daughter was actually still a baby, asleep in her crib; the note was from the future, and he still had time to change things.
Believe me, I’m no better than any other dad. I make mistakes all the time, but I always try to keep in mind this time with our children will be gone in a blink of the eye. If you’re scared you might get a letter like this one, now is the time to start making changes. There’s still time to rewrite that letter!
Now… go dance with Cinderella.
UPDATE: I just found out something I didn’t know about this song. Several months after writing it, in May 2008, Chapman’s youngest daughter, Maria Sue, died as a result of an car accident, and the song took on a whole new meaning for the Chapman family. While the song had originally been written as a message to love and cherish parenthood while it lasted, it acquired another message of the frailty of life and how suddenly it can change. Go hug your kids. Please.