Scott Graves
Curry Coastal Pilot

It was a sunny, Sunday afternoon. The young father walked his 4-year-old daughter onto the lawn in front of the Azalea Park stage where the band was playing. The girl started dancing, arms floating, feet pivoting, grooving to the music.

Dad took his daughter’s hand in his and they danced together. He wasn’t the most graceful dancer, but he didn’t care. He was living in the moment. Just he and his daughter, dancing, laughing, oblivious to the hundreds of other people nearby.

Their dance touched my heart. That father was me. Is me. I am him. The future him. Their dance reminded me of the times I danced with my daughter when she was that age (she’s now 14).

Did that father realize how lucky he was on that sunny afternoon?

Did he realize what a great example he was setting for her? Understand the bond they were building? The memory they were creating?

I hope so.

When they stopped dancing I wanted to run up to him and tell him — implore him — to not stop. Dance with his daughter again that day — and dance every day for as many years as he could.

I wanted to explain to him that, all too soon, the little angel he knows and loves will disappear, somewhat, upon becoming a teenager.

That’s okay, I’d say. She’ll still need her father — just not so much as a dancing partner.

She’ll still need her dad’s hand (figuratively more than literally) as she becomes more self-aware, struggles with mental and physical changes, peer pressure, school and boys.

I wanted to explain how his role as father will change in the coming years, from dancer, entertainer and immediate caregiver to that of coach, counselor and cheerleader.

His daughter might not always want or seek his counsel. That’s okay, too. Sometimes a father’s role is to simply be there, to give her a thumbs-up, a quick hug, listen to her music or just listen to her (the more you listen, the more you learn).

More importantly, I wanted to say, is to remember that your actions speak louder than words. Daughters watch their fathers and form ideas of how men should behave.

My advice? Watch your language — and insist she watches hers. Spend time together as a family. Treat your wife with love and respect — and insist she treats her mother the same. Don’t gossip about or judge others. Don’t listen to music, read magazines or watch TV that exploits or denigrates women. Tell her you love her. Tell her she’s special. Tell her ...

Well, I’m sure he would get the point.

I’m glad I got to sit on the sidelines that day at the park and witness that special dance between father and child.

Such moments, I’ve learned, are fleeting, but there are many of them as years go by. Each should be cherished.

The father-child relationship is a special dance, an unpredictable dance set to a soundtrack of joy and sorrow, challenges and celebrations.

To all fathers out there, I say, “Grab your child’s hand and dance! Do it while they’ll still let you.

It’s a dance that, one day, will come to an end, and each father will simply have to ...

Let go.