Dancing with Dad

angelapattonI remember hearing this statement from an early American writer and religious leader when I was in high school:

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do … I will do.”

I had almost forgotten it, but they came to life for me recently when I heard the story of Angela Patton.

Angela studied to become a nurse and doula, someone who helps women and their families during and after the time a baby is born. A few years ago, Angela created a program called Camp Diva that, according to Angela, “helps girls of African descent (nationality; where your family originally came from)” prepare to become healthy young women.

One day one of Angela’s girls began to complain because her father kept checking up on (to find out if she’s doing what she should be doing) her. “You’re lucky,” said Jasmine, one of the other girls. “I haven’t heard from my dad in years.”

For Angela that was an “Aha!” moment – a moment when you suddenly understand something or come up with an important idea. At that moment Angela understood in a new way how important it was for girls to connect with (have a good relationship with) their fathers.

She thought about what the girls had said, then asked, “How can we help other girls develop healthy relationships with their fathers?”

“Let’s have a dance,” one girl shouted. The others agreed, and the planning began – decorations, invitations, what to wear, what their fathers should, or shouldn’t, wear. Angela says she’s learned that these girls “know what they need.” And she’s learned that if you give them some structure (organization), mentoring (guidance), and resources, they can build what they need and thrive (do very well).

The night of the dance came and so did most of the girls and their fathers, all dressed up for the occasion (event). Angela says, “They acted sweet. They acted silly. They really enjoyed each other’s company (being with each other). It was a huge success. And the girls decided to do it every year.”

A year went by, and soon it was time to plan the next dance. But as they began, Brianna told the other girls that “My dad can’t come to the dance, and this whole thing is making me sad.”

“Why not?” the others asked.

“Because he’s in jail.”

Angela says that she thought for a moment, then asked the girls, “What do you think we should do about this?”

The girls were quiet, then one of them suggested, “Why don’t we just take the dance in the jail?”

And that’s what they did. The girls sent a letter to the sheriff (an elected law officer) in charge of the jail, asking him if they could have a dance there. And he said “Yes!” because he knew that fathers who are connected to their children probably won’t return to prison.

Almost 20 fathers and their daughters attended the dance in the jail. The girls wore their nicest dresses, and the fathers wore shirts and ties rather than (instead of) their jail uniforms. The girls and their fathers hugged each other and laughed. They enjoyed a catered (prepared somewhere else and brought in) meal. And they danced. It was so beautiful, Angela says, that even the guards cried.

Before they went home after the dance, the girls and their dads used small digital video cameras to record their feelings and thoughts so they could better remember the evening.

Angela Patton is only one person, but she has certainly done something very special for her girls and their fathers.

If you want to listen to Angela tell her story, you can find it here. If you do, click on “Show Transcript” below the video window and choose “English” so you can listen and read her story at the same time.

~ Warren Ediger – English tutor/coach and creator of the Successful English web site.

Photo credit: Angela Patton, TED Talk, CC

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13 Responses to Dancing with Dad

  1. Dan says:

    Hello everyone

    Thanks Warren for this heart-warming story I did not know about.

    I was wondering whether you have daughter and if you have ever danced with her?

    What about you Emiliano?

    I have no kids so.. I can only pick up one of my cats and dance with them…poor cats..

    Thanks! Bye

  2. Peter says:

    Dear warren ,

    Frankly , I didn’t impressed by the whole story even a bit.
    I ,for one , done want to dance with my mother.
    It feels weird and definitely it is not gonna be an emotional or divine moment
    It is not that I don’t like my mother but there are certain rules and definitely certain lines that are not supposed to cross.
    I mean, let parents remain parents
    Making sappy story out of them is bit touchy at all
    Trust me , the story sounds like a low budget movie with a bad story line.


  3. hubert says:

    What a story! Jail episode is very didactic. I have four daughters and I love to spent time with them.

  4. Betty says:

    Dear Warren

    Thank you very much for this inspiring story. It is amazing. It is unimaginable in some other countries.

    I also like the statement “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do … I will do.”

    Angela Patton has a big heart. Nothing can stop a big heart.

    We human only have one heart in one person. This one heart can do everything.

    Many thanks again, Warren, I am truly touched by this story.

    Best Regards

    Betty 🙂

  5. emiliano says:

    so much to talk about this subject that I don´t know what to say.

    First I think the story is real, when I dance with my three daughters at home, or in a house my parents have in the mountains near Madrid (we like to go
    to see them on week ends) everything goes quite good.
    As always I did like music, I had some hits of the moment that the girls liked very much, so we started to dance with the music of ABBA, or sometimes
    Mikel Jackson or Madonna, it was wonderful.
    Cuca likes to dance too, and some time we all were dancing cheerfully, happy, ….it was another time/another life it seems was going to last for a long

    As a dream it past after some years, and when the three girls where teens everything started to changed little by little. At the end the girls were young
    women and we did not dance except in some weding or so…the atmosphere changed and all was different.

    So yes, it is a good idea for fathers to dance with their daughters as much as possible while it is possible, for me it was, the same as to teach them English
    when they were children, but now here we are with our memories and the girls are far away from home.

    The younger in Copenhaguen, the older in Canarias Islands (the one we see more) and the second in Madrid but it is the same she could be in Moscow or
    New York, as we see her very few.

    Happiness with our children is a short period of time where we have to do our best to educated them knowing that quite soon they will be far from us, living
    their own life.

    Now I have Gatufo, my cat, he is close to us and I know he will be with their family till the end of his/our life.
    Happy dear friend who gives me the best a living soul coud gives……love along all his life.

    My best dear Warren, ….I think you know what I am talking about.


  6. emiliano says:

    Dancing with Gatufo

    Now that I think about the subject I fell in the fact that now I dance with Gatufo and he seems to be happy.

    If there is a good music to dance at home, the cat started to jump, feels happy and goes up and down along the house.
    I take him up, embrace gatufo inside my arms and we are dancing for a while together…..he is happy and me too.

    Lacking the girls now I dance with my little son.
    Yes I am crazy with him.


  7. emiliano says:

    He Dan, sure you do the same with Princes, don´t you?

    All my support to you now, you know why my friend…..despite you said you haven´t…I am.


  8. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Yes, it is just a beautiful story. Daughters should ask their father to dance with them every day. I dare to say that girls start to understand men with their fathers. It is great to dance with daughters, making them feel happy, seeing their faces smiling. I had three daughters and I remember very well when they were little children, playing with their dolls, riding their bykes. I wish that those times would come back.
    Aecio from beautiful and green Brazil.

  9. Warren Ediger says:

    Dan – Yes, I have two daughters, and we are very good friends. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many young people, and I’ve seen what happens when they don’t have good relationships with their fathers. That’s why I was impressed with what Angela Patton is doing with these girls.


  10. emiliano says:

    Dear Warren, it seems to me that there is not difficult to be friend of you by your experience with young people
    as you said.

    May we know if they are young girls or young woman?

    Sorry Warren I am curious?
    Yes, I am. I like to know about our teachers having in mind they know a lot about us, or at least about me,
    or Peter…Betty and some other old friends of the Blog.


  11. sutisha says:

    Dear Angela and Warren,

    Thank you Angela for your discerning the importance of father-daughter’s healthy relationships and thank you for your pioneering and concrete accomplishment.
    Thank you Warren for your providing us such impressive “Dancing with dad”. You remind me of my Senior Prom and my dad who is somewhat conservative and does not dance. A month before the prom my dad seemed to be more excited than I (a shy bookworm) was. To all family’s big surprise, he asked his boss’s secretary to take me to a dressmaker’s for my evening dress. The very kind lady also suggested that I should attend a ballroom dancing class for some basic steps, and my dad immediately agreed. A bigger surprise indeed!! … At this moment of my writing, … streams of what dad has done for me gently
    flow into my mind unceasingly. Today, at 82, my healthy dad still helps me clean my car … he is a car-lover…and my beloved dad … Thank you again to Angela and Warren.

    Best wishes to all of you and all dads

  12. Betty says:

    Dear Emiliano

    I am very happy to see your whole family in your blog.

    If any of our friends here want to visit Emiliano’s blog, please click on Emiliano’s name in his post above.

    E.g. ’emiliano’ Says:
    MARCH 8TH, 2013 AT 2:44 AM

    You will be able to go to Emiliano’s blog when his name appears in blue colour.

    I think because Emiliano has been with us for so long, Jeff and Lucy trust him to let us access his blog from here.

    I must go now. Too much to do.

    Best Regards

    Betty 🙂

  13. emiliano says:

    Thanks Betty, your are absolutely good nice friend.

    Yes, you are right, even Jeff and Lucy do that because they are excelent persons and the best teachers
    either what they want is that their pupils, like me, could write in English as much as possible.

    I know there is long way to walk till the point of writing a good English, but if your don´t start to walk
    it is impossible to reach the goal.

    Two years ago I read a book of Stephen King (one of my writers) in English with the title
    “On writing” and it is possible he has given ideas and a very good example of what to do.
    In his book tell about him, being a young boy trying to write, once, again and again, being always
    all his efforts rejected by the magazines or publishers, but he insist along years trying to write
    surviving doing other jobs, all king of jobs, one of the book he wrote and put into the rubish
    was “Carrie” he doesn´t like it….but his wife Taphitha, also writer, take it out from the wastepaper
    and said him….”continue” it´s good.
    Yes, and it was the first book published from him, selling millions of copies all round the world.
    What he said to the people that wanted to write is:
    “Write about the things or subjects you know well”…do it as much as possible, it is impossible
    to write about things you don´t know or you have not any experience….
    Now I try to do follws his advises…
    Stephen´s life is quite interesting of reading, it seems a writer well known for ever, and nothing
    more far or reallity.

    Thanks so much dear teachers, (Jeff, Lucy, Warren) you are for us an example to follow always.

    emiliano “gatufo”

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