The kid was looking straight at me. Blue eyes under a shag of blonde hair. I swear this young punk was mocking me.
He’d just done a high energy dance, with another young punk. Hip-hop, I think they called it. They wore caps, and drooping baggy shorts, designed to show off their undies.
The crowd was excited. What we’d seen, apparently, was good stuff. Girls were screaming. But this kid, he didn’t care about the cheering. He only had eyes for me.
The Treasurer accused me of over-reacting. He wasn’t looking at me, she said. He was a nice boy, she said. And good-looking!
Let us be clear. High school boys are now the enemy. Well, my enemy. No-one else seems to notice. Here they were, these thirteen year olds, confident and friendly. And talented.
It was high school dance night. Daughter One’s debut as a Year Eight performer. She was wonderful. Dads can say that. But there was a problem. Those damn boys noticed her too.
I’m no novice when it comes to dance concerts. Fathers with music-loving children become experts on matters of the stage. How ironic.
Dancing is not one of my strengths. I can sway with The Treasurer when ordered to, and have been known to break into an awkward tap late at night. Outside of that, I have nothing.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be attending these concerts. You just assume that as a dad, you’ll be at footy training. Or in cricket nets. If I’m to be perfectly honest here, it takes some getting used to.
Early on, the girls would wear cute costumes, and jump around on stage to the beat of Nicky Webster. I would sit and nod. Others around me would explode into applause. Not quite a length of the field try or a boundary through extra cover. But I played my part.
Later, it became clear that both girls were serious about this dancing caper. Afternoon practice sessions. Weekend concerts. As long as they took place outside of Saturday racing hours, I’d be there.
That last bit was a joke, of course. As if I’d put my punting ahead of the joy that is watching my daughters express themselves. A pocket transistor and earpiece worked just fine.
My greatest complaint with dance concerts, is that I don’t particularly care about other kids. No offence. I only have so much dance love. And I have to save that for my own.
These concert programs usually contain 70 or 80 performances. Yep, that many. Dance after dance. With 5 year olds, and ballet girls, and youngsters learning circus acts. All crammed into my afternoon.
It is the law of being a Dad that your child never comes on stage before act number 68. And you don’t know this until you’ve taken your seat. So you watch, and clap, and watch, and clap, and ignore the impulse to stab yourself in the eye with the nearest sharp implement.
I spent an entire Sunday at a cheerleading competition. I was not well, because of activities undertaken the day before. I took my seat, and suffered through a grand total of 112 routines.
That’s not to say that the kids weren’t talented. They were marvellous. Doing positive things to stay fit and keep out of trouble. It’s just that I had to watch them.
Just when I thought I had the dance spectator thing sorted, along comes high school. For all the problems associated with those junior outings, there was a positive; no boys. Except little ones in bow ties and bowler hats. Not any more.
As I watched the other night in the big auditorium, it hit me. My baby girl is growing up. At home, I can be blissfully ignorant of the signs around me. But here, at her high school, surrounded by these confident, talented, self-assured young people, I could no longer pretend.
She becomes a teenager in a few weeks. I’ll tell you more about that soon enough. With this new age, comes change. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m not the only one who now marvels at her beauty. Others, too, have their day brightened by her laugh. And the absolute warmth of her heart.
I’m bracing for what’s ahead. I don’t have sons, but I know boys. That’s the problem. Those mums and dads who had to put up with my antics several decades ago are clinking glasses as we speak. Payback time.
Maybe the Year 8 punks aren’t so bad after all. I guess we could learn to get along. And maybe, he wasn’t mocking me. I must admit they were impressive up there. But if our relationship is going to work, could they at least pull up those bloody shorts?