For whatever reason, the dances that I have attended over the past few months here in Oregon have often included father-daughter dances, which have been rare (aside from weddings) from the dances I am most familiar with. Often, these father-daughter dances are rather sentimental country ballads (which may reflect the musical tastes of many of the people I know). I suppose some people might think it odd that I would be intrigued by the subject of father-daughter dances, given that I have no children, but as someone who has been interested in my share of young women, and who has often imagined what it would be like to be a parent, it is a subject of some personal interest. Besides, I know plenty of young women who tend to appreciate dancing with their fathers (or even grandfathers!), and there is one particular song that I think would be ideal for a father-daughter dance, as it would be something I would tell a daughter of mine given my own personality, if God blesses me with a loving wife and a little princess for a daughter. That song happens to be a country ballad by Tim McGraw, named “My Little Girl.”
The first verse of “My Little Girl” reads as follows: “Gotta hold on easy as I let you go, / Gonna tell you how much I love you, / Though you think you already know. / I remember I thought you looked like an angel wrapped in pink so soft and warm. / You’ve had me wrapped around your finger since the day you were born .” The first verse sets the tone for the song as a whole, letting us know some key details about the father-daughter relationship that the song envisions (especially given its appearance as the theme song for the film Flicka). First, the father (the singer, who played the father in the film as well as singing this song from the perspective of the father) says that he is letting his daughter go. He realizes that his little girl is growing up, about to become an adult, and that soon (if not already) he will not have the undivided affection of his beloved princess. He also realizes that his daughter thinks she understands the nature and depth of his love but she does not, simply because it is impossible to fully understand what it is like to be a parent without some experience in the matter. Of course, the father still sees his daughter as the adorable little baby from years ago, who has always been able to charm her father from birth.
The chorus continues these themes: “You beautiful baby from the outside in. / Chase your dreams but always know the road that’ll lead you home again. / Go on, take on this whole world, / But to me you know you’ll always be, my little girl.” The father, even though he still sees his daughter as his little girl, not entirely realizing how big she has gotten, still recognizes his daughter as beautiful on the outside as well as the inside, which shows that he has done a good job. Children do not generally turn out well unless some parent, either a birth parent or an adopted parent or a mentor who serves in loco parentis (in the case of particularly troubled families) is able to set a good example of behavior as well as provide encouragement and support. This particular father encourages his child to pursue her dreams and take on the world (which I would also encourage any children of mine to do, not least because I tend to take on the world rather fiercely myself by nature, and would expect nothing less of any offspring of mine). In so doing, though, he lets his almost-grown up daughter know that she always has a home if she needs one. As may be imagined, this is something I find particularly poignant and more than a little tragic given the course of my own life .
The second verse of “My Little Girl” reads: “When you were in trouble that crooked little smile could melt my heart of stone. / Now look at you, I’ve turned around and you’ve almost grown. / Sometimes you’re asleep I whisper “I Love You” in the moonlight at your door. / As I walk away, I hear you say, “Daddy Love You More.”” Here again we see the themes of the first verse repeated in a sort of parallelism (there even a hint of a chiasm here), as we see the father reflect on how his daughter’s mischievous grin kept her from punishment that was merited and deserved, and how a father can see his daughter as a little girl and suddenly turn around to find her near adulthood. Likewise, he seeks to express his love to a young woman who claims that she loves him more than he loves her. While the singer has dealt with these concerns before, he reflects on them again, in light of the fact that they form fundamental aspects of the particular father-daughter relationship (a difficulty dealing with maturity and the passage of time, mutual life, the power that a beloved child has in a relationship with a parent as a result of the parent’s love and adoration).
The bridge throws in the main concern of the father, his replacement as the apple of his daughter’s eye with her (future) husband: “Someday, some boy will come and ask me for your hand, / But I won’t say “yes” to him unless I know, he’s the half / That makes you whole, he has a poet’s soul, and the heart of a man’s man. / I know he’ll say that he’s in love, / But between you and me / He won’t be good enough.” Here we see the singer’s anxiety over his daughter’s future marriage to a besotten young man who, in his eyes, will never be good enough to be the husband of his beloved daughter. That said, he gives three conditions to give permission to the young man–the same three conditions I would want to meet myself for a young woman, as well as the same sort of conditions I would give if I was in the place of the singer: the young man and the young woman are well-suited and complementary and equally yoked, the young man is a poetic man who fills his words and thoughts with immense beauty, and that the poetic nature of the young man does not make him effeminate or reduce his nobility and honor, but that he remains genuinely a man of courage and integrity even as he has a sensitive soul. These are hard qualities to meet, but well worth meeting.
For me personally, I can envision myself as both the young man as well as the father, depending on how far into the future I project myself. For the present, I am the young man seeking to court a young woman of honor and faced with the need to demonstrate my worth not only in her eyes but also in the eyes of her family. I can also, without any difficulty, imagine at some distant point in the future that I might have a daughter whose growing up would place me in the position of a singer. We should note of Tim McGraw (as well as the character he plays in Flicka ) that he is both a man’s man as well as a poetic sort of fellow. He did co-write the song, after all, a song which managed to be relatively successful, reading #3 on the Billboard Country Chart and #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, as well as #15 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart . Perhaps some day it will make it to a father-daughter dance where I am going, though I have not yet seen it happen.