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Dance Dad: Adventures in Drama-Free Duding Up

Parents of active children spend countless hours watching soccer, dance, football, piano and you name it. We sign them up, drive them to practice and then earn the right to complain when our weekends are overcome with busy schedules of who goes where, what clothes and equipment to pack, and how to get the kids healthy, (saying this only for my wife) convenient meals in between performances or games.

Yes, I said earn the right. It is a lot of rush and wait; speed across town and then eat dinner in a parking lot; hustle the kids and then anticipate a delay in other events. We aren’t really complaining, but establishing a common bond with fellow parents who may just have gotten yelled at by a stressed out teenager who is nervous to play/perform, or forgot a dance shoe when that was the one item the child had the accountability to pack.

I digress. I am now a dance dad. Think of the Lifetime Network’s Abby Lee Dance Mom’s, but without the drama, infighting and moms trying to outdo one another in heels, jewelry and clothing. I wear, gym shoes, shorts or jeans and of course either my favorite Michigan State wear or my prop dad t-shirt.

I started as a soccer - baseball - basketball dad and even coached a few of those. For the past ten years, however, I have been thrust into the competitive dance world, watching countless hours of tap, hip-hop, contemporary and other forms of dance – solos, duos, group dances and more. I have been a cheerleader, a comforting shoulder, a dad that helps schlep the props on and off stage; and here’s what I take pride in but don’t publicize. I am the costume dad.

I don’t do hair, curling irons, bows or fishnet stockings, but if you need a good pair of tuxedo pants, bow ties and suspenders or a shirt that perfectly matches the color of another dancer’s costume, I am the dude. Okay, in full disclosure, the girls gave me a pass during their dance days, but for Number 4 -- our son who has been a competitive “dancelete”, amidst soccer and other sports, since he was four years old -- I have become his personal stylist. It is my job to help him “dude up” if you will.

It is rather ironic that my identity and the word stylist would be in the same sentence, since my wife says I only have one look, my casual jeans and my casual jeans; and a collared shirt on a special occasion. I have to say, however, that when my wife tries to get in my lane and asks about costumes, I am like, “whoa, whoa, whoa – I’ve got this handled.” Do I get involved in her work stuff? Do I try to take over her role as the “family house chore initiator”? No, she is good at it, so I don’t interfere.

It’s the season of dance competitions and this weekend I sit in another hotel, ready to watch what I have come to appreciate as incredible displays of strength, athleticism, and entertainment; and when I get my fill there is always a little March Madness (college basketball) on the lobby television where my fellow dance dads congregate for some male bonding time. The heavy lift on my costume selection duty was complete months ago, and now I just have to remember all of the pieces. Okay, before my wife beats me to the punch here, I have, on occasion forgotten to pack a critical pair of shoes for a costume, a belt or a shirt. Like I said, I stay in my lane. I am a costume selector. My wife’s expertise is the follow through.

To read more about Mike’s perspective on being a dad and primary parent to four kids, check out ZagZig Parenting: (Mis) Adventures of a Career-Driven Mom and a Stay-at-Home Dad. The book will release on April 25. You can pre-order it today on Amazon.

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