I was really busy last night.
As usual, I’d piled far too much on my plate and found myself at the end of another day; hovering over a screen and keyboard, feverishly typing, furrowing my brow—and feeling annoyed at the seemingly insurmountable, important things still unfinished.
My 8-year old came bounding into the room (which in itself felt like an interruption at first). I answered her succession of rapid fire questions abruptly without looking up—hoping she’d get the hint that I was preoccupied and stop asking.
Then she said that she’d set up a light show in her room and asked if I’d have a dance party with her.
For a split second I considered declining and excusing myself; telling her how much work I had to do and how tired I was, and promising her we could do it another time.
Then it occurred to me that she didn’t want to dance another time. She wanted to dance with me now.
I realized that there are a finite number of times I’ll get such an invitation—and I’d never again get this one.
I knew I’d never be face to face with this specific version of my daughter; at this precise age, in this exact moment, offering this once-in-History chance to dance with her.
And boy did we dance.
There in the rainbow strobe lights of her room we twirled and giggled and spun; each taking turns prompting the other to follow. We banged on drums and tossed stuffed animals and jumped off the bed. I felt my brow unfurrow and my jaw soften and my anxiety subside in the presence of this deniable joy.
I looked into my daughter’s eyes as she bounced wildly in front of me, her face beaming. I could see that this was all she wanted in the world right now; to dance with her Daddy—and I was grateful that I stopped the world so that I was there with her. I was glad I didn’t get fooled into believing there was anything else more pressing, more urgent, more important than that moment. I’m glad I didn’t miss this chance to dance.
This morning my daughter is different. She is a day older today, imperceptibly changed.
There’s no guarantee she’ll ever ask me to dance again. This is how the lasts times with our kids are (the last tuck-ins, the last fort builds, the last dance parties, the last throw and catch.) You only realize they were the lasts, as you look back and miss them and wish you had one more chance to say yes.
I really hope my daughter asks me to dance again, but even if she doesn’t—I said yes this time.
Parents, our days with our kids are rainbow strobe light flashes: blink and they’re gone. They are beautiful dance parties that we get one chance to show up for.
This moment is a singular gift, so do you best not to waste it. Build every fort, read every story, throw every ball, accept every dance party invitation. You’ll never regret such things.
There is nothing more pressing or urgent or important than being with the version of your child that you’ll never get to be with again.
I was really busy last tonight.
I’m glad I wasn’t too busy to say yes to my daughter.
Don’t miss your chance to dance.