For the past month or so my three year-old daughter, Anna, has requested when I put her to bed I sing her the “Ariel Song.” Unless I want to experience the wrath of a three-year-old denied her greatest desire, I must sing

“Part of Your World” at the top of my lungs just before Anna goes to sleep. Yes, I know the whole song. Jealous? Although I roll my eyes at this fact in front of friends and family, I secretly love it. It’s our thing, a little inside tradition that Anna and I share. I think these little things are what it means to be a dad.

A few weeks ago, Melissa and I mustered up all the courage we had and took the kids, aforementioned three year-old and Elijah (3 months) on their first vacation without grandparents. We spent four days in the luxurious Branson, MO.  If you’ve ever been to Branson, you know it’s about as luxurious as a cutesy boutique filled with self-proclaimed “hillbilly” antiquities and knick-knacks. From what I can tell Branson has at least seven such boutiques. But, Branson has plenty of family friendly shows and attractions that kids go nuts over so we thought it would be a fun little getaway. It was not a fun little getaway.

During the trip, I came up with nicknames to later refer to this “getaway.” “The reason we don’t go on trips without grandparents,” “Who will melt down next? It’s dad,” and “Brief, shimmering moments of hope followed by exaggerated, drawn out moments of weeping and gnashing of teeth.” But, there were those brief moments of hope!

One such moment occurred on the second day of our vacation. We had already spent one full day in Branson full of meltdowns, plans that went awry and more meltdowns. Then came the day of The Branson BelleThe Branson Belle is a showboat that travels over Table Rock Lake as you eat and are entertained by a variety show. This particular variety show was emceed by a magician. The guy was actually pretty good but, all of his tricks were completely lost on Anna and Elijah applauded by pooping his pants. Next, were the tap dancers. Anna liked the tap dancers and Elijah gave them his equivalent of a standing ovation. Anna had remained moderately entertained by the majority of the show, until something happened.

A female vocalist had been accompanying several of the entertainers here and there throughout the show. Finally, it was time for her solo. What was the first song she picked? Adorned in a beautiful, big, pink dress – this princess chose the “Ariel Song.” What?! Are you kidding?!  This is Anna’s song! I looked over to exchange a glance with Anna. Anna didn’t even glance my way for a second. She was entranced by the lyrics and performance being had right in front of her. Her mouth hung open and her eyes were unblinking. I looked back at Melissa, tears in my eyes. Melissa smiled back at me. This was a moment.  A moment where not just anyone could be Anna’s dad. This moment was comprised of singing song after song back home until God-knows-when, just trying to coax a preschooler to sleep. This moment was comprised of a cranky three-year-old and a dad who feels like he’s just holding it together arguing over which princess PJs are more appropriate to wear at nighttime. There were all of these other “I don’t want to be a dad today” moments that led to this brief, incredible, euphoric, DAD MOMENT. The rest of the trip was probably a total bust. I didn’t care. I had my DAD MOMENT. It didn’t matter how many fits were thrown or plans foiled. That princess sang the “Ariel Song,” what else is there?!

I think that is what it means to be a dad. Being a dad is being there in the unglamorous day-to-day. Being a dad is singing goofy songs to no end. Being a dad is helping with homework till 2am. Being a dad is going to yet another band recital. Being a dad is practicing that kick/pitch/spiral/spin/leap one more time. And then, there’s the brief, incredible, euphoric, DAD MOMENT. There’s that moment when your kid gives you that knowing look when your song comes on. There’s that moment when he or she child aces the test because of the hard work you two put in. There’s that moment when they kick/pitch/spiral/spin/leap their way into the hall of fame – or you know… the little league equivalent. So, in case you’ve forgotten, keep watching for your DAD MOMENT. I pray that you see them with clarity for what they really are, God-given DAD MOMENTS.

Happy Dad’s Day
Andy Nelms

Rev. Andy Nelms

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