In a previous life I was a wedding reception DJ, so I know the power of a song played at just the right moment — like “The Twist” followed by “Play That Funky Music,” just when grandma decides to come out onto the dance floor. There really isn’t anything like it.
But few moments rival that of the father-daughter dance. My youngest sister got married this summer, and in keeping with tradition, she danced with our father. The song? “Cinderella” by Stephen Curtis Chapman. The chorus goes like this:
So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don’t wanna miss even one song
‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone
My wife, Elissa, and I have been foster parents since 2015, and our journey brought us our first foster daughter. She was part of our family from 4 months old until almost 2 years, when she returned to her biological family. The clock struck midnight on February 10, 2017 at 10 a.m. when I buckled our little Cinderella into the five-point harness in the back of our social worker’s SUV. Stephen Curtis Chapman was right, the clock did strike midnight all too soon.
Fast forward to this past summer. Our second foster daughter had been with us since we took her home from the hospital 13 months ago. While the rest of our family attended my sister’s wedding ceremony, Elissa missed it because there was a court hearing one of us had to attend. A court hearing that, in part, would determine if the clock will soon strike midnight for this little one, too.
Chasing a bouncing toddler on the dance floor at a wedding reception is nothing short of exhausting. Oh, the glory days of when I was just the DJ! But when this song came on, I stopped and looked her in the eyes with the sobering awareness that this could be the last time I dance with her. Fighting back tears, I realized that I had a choice to make. To cry or to dance.
So I did both.
Truth be told, I’ve been doing both since the day she joined our family. Because being a foster dad really is a lot like being a regular dad. No parent is guaranteed tomorrow, and every parent says their children grow up too fast. I’m sure my dad was thinking the same thing as he danced with my sister that night. But as foster parents, we sign up to dance with Cinderella knowing full well she might disappear by morning. We sign up to be left with the glass slipper, only to do it all over again.
People on the outside looking in often ask, “Why do you do it?”
And I simply answer, “If you ever have the chance to dance with Cinderella, you’ll know. It’s worth it.”
– Tom De Groot, foster parent
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services recruits, trains and provides support services for foster families. The need for foster parents in Wisconsin is great. Contact us to receive information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, or visit our website to learn more.