People Are Going To Hate This, But: Being A Father Doesn’t Confer An Exception From Basic Rules And Process

Case Study I:

In a perfect example of the “Awww!” Facter at work, Marc Daniels was hailed as a model dad after he jumped on stage and began dancing with his toddler daughter when stage fright paralyzed her during a ballet performance in Hamilton, Bermuda. The cute video went “viral.”



Let’s stay away from the inherent ethical problems of having two-year-olds perform on stage at all.  Let’s also stipulate that the fact that the audience applauded is irrelevant; applause doesn’t validate misconduct. Those Broadway fools applauded Robert Di Niro for saying “Fuck Trump.”

Here’s the ethics point: cute or not,  Daniels had no justification for hijacking the performance. The performance had a director. Adults were in charge of the situation.  This was his solution: how does anyone know what the next parent who feels so empowered might do? Order the number re-started? Shout at his daughter?  What if other parents were unhappy with their children’s demeanor on stage? What if they felt Daniels’ interference was upsetting and distracting their daughters? Daniels was an audience member, and the ethical limits on his performance were the same as on any audience member.  Is this a ballet only exception, or should dads jump out of the stands to complete a Little League play when their kids drop the ball? There is no difference. Let me say it again: there is no difference.

Daniels’ daughter was 2. What’s the cut-off when such parental interference is inappropriate? 4? 8? 12? 36?

I see this as part of the “Think of the children!” disease, an unfortunate and unanticipated consequence of women having equal access to levers of power and the presumed legitimacy that goes along with it. Parenting, love, loyalty and compassion outranks everything now, even law, rules, and common sense, and men have been so intimidated about “man-splaining” and are so terrified of being called sexist that they are adopting this warped hierarchy that can only result in chaos if it becomes the norm.

Case Study II:

Mike Jones was racing in the NASCAR Late Model 100 at South Boston Speedway in Virginia when his car spun out of control, crashed, and burst into flames.  His father, watching nearby among the spectators. immediately jumped onto the track, reached the wreck before track rescue crews, and pulled his son to safety.

“Dad of the Year!”, awwwwed the Sporting News.

Wrong. This was pure moral luck. By interfering with the rescue crews, Jones easily could have harmed his son. Indeed, Dean Jones was placed on probation for the rest of the season, though he  will not be fined or suspended. Dad is his son’s track chief, but he wasn’t involved in the race when he decided to run on the track. He was just another spectator.

As with the Dancing Dad, Jones was playing a special Daddy card that doesn’t exist, but people cheering, sighing “Awww!” and praising irresponsible behavior reinforce the dangerous belief that that card is in the societal pack.

It is not, nor should it be.


44 thoughts on “People Are Going To Hate This, But: Being A Father Doesn’t Confer An Exception From Basic Rules And Process

    • It doesn’t. 1) “Director’s husband” isn’t a production position. 2) Rehearsal is no different from a performance. 3) It there was an audience, then it was a performance. 4) The idea of rehearsals is to prepare for the performance. In some respects, this was worse for a rehearsal.

      • Two questions: 1) Assuming the father hadn’t intervened so egregiously, what was the best course of action for the director? I would be inclined to have the child taken off-stage and given to her parents; seems to be the least disruptive way to handle the situation and allow the other children to continue their rehearsal. 2) What was the director’s best course of action once the father had gotten on stage? She allowed the rehearsal to go on, enabling his unethical intervention.

          • Then THE DIRECTOR could go on and dance with her, if not. That’s her job.


            Of course, performances with two year olds are kinda flakey from the outset. You HAVE to expect the kids to go off course, and be prepared for it.

            • There is this: Dads tend to be over-protective of their daughters…sometimes sons as well. All three of my sons are well past 40, and, while I’d never dance on-stage with any of them, I’d damn sure try to pull one out of a burning car. Sorry…parents aren’t always rational. My granddaughters are also too old for ‘ballet’ classes, but 2 years is too YOUNG.

  1. Given your stipuations on the ethics of child performances I agree that dad should let the director work through the issue. Dad should stay at the ready in the wings to recieve his daughter. Instead, he became the center of attention robbing the children of their opportunity to showcase their skills. This is equivalent to holding theater goers hostage to the irrelevant speeches made by actors. The applause I would suggest was not to confer some form of admiration for the stunt but more out of a desire to not make the situation worse with silence thus devaluing the efforts of the other kids. The problem with applause is that he wil not recognize that it was not for him but for the kids on the stage.

  2. Regarding your second story: trying to distinguish this from your analysis of school shootings.

    When you see a problem, you don’t sit idly by waiting to die, or waiting for someone else to die while the people charged to do their job don’t.

    I agree that spectators should not interfere with safety professionals, but this spectator got there before the professionals.

    I know you are not saying teachers should sit by and wait for law enforcement to do their job. But I can’t pinpoint the principle that distinguishes these two cases, but I doubt that the distinction between self-defense at the school and defense of others at the race track is the correct distinction.

    • Sure you can. The school shooting situation lacks any official or trained responders. Once they are on the scene and active, then anyone else has to back off. Should bystanders get involved in police shootouts? “Help”/compete with firefighters when there’s a fire? The guy rushing from the crowd flunks the Kant rule: what if EVERYBODY ran down onto the track?

      • Yes, if they interfere. If he got there before them, I don’t fault him. You don’t pass the buck until the cavalry actually arrives (to mix metaphors).

        But, regarding Kant, I would fully expect every parent to act in such a way to protect one’s child. Then, it does not flunk the Kant test, because not everyone would act that way in every circumstance. Just the dads (or parents).

        And that shows in your post. Only one dad jumped on stage, not all dads.


    Sarah Silverman’s dad, who unleashed a profanity-laced tirade on an admittedly pretentious rabbi who criticized Sarah for some of her life choices was hailed as a hero with plenty of “moxie.” I tried to see if I could get a few online cheers for Mitt Romney’s son Tagg for saying he wanted to punch Obama’s lights out for calling his dad a liar, but it never took off. I would have very much enjoyed seeing him give the liar-in-chief a blacker eye. 😀

  4. “I see this as part of the “Think of the children!” disease, an unfortunate and unanticipated consequence of women having equal access to levers of power and the presumed legitimacy that goes along with it. Parenting, love, loyalty and compassion outranks everything now, even law, rules, and common sense, and men have been so intimidated about “man-splaining” and are so terrified of being called sexist that they are adopting this warped hierarchy that can only result in chaos if it becomes the norm.”

    Ummmm … women just can’t win, can they? You are blaming women’s lib for a man jumping on stage during a ballet recital?

    FWIW — I’ve sat through many of these recitals. They are horribly boring. I would have welcomed a dancing dad, a dancing dog, a dancing mouse — anything really. I saw this video and thought it was cute. There are many times that parents or teachers interrupt performances at these young ages to dance with their kids or the teachers do it. Either they accompany them or the child is escorted off stage.

    • “Ummmm … women just can’t win, can they? You are blaming women’s lib for a man jumping on stage during a ballet recital?”

      I too had trouble understanding this particular connection to the story. I agree it is more of the “thinking of the children” rubbish, but what women in particular or their position of power have to do with it seemed muddled.

      • Again, I don’t see why this concept is hard. Women in power, visibility and influence have more effect on the culture than women who don’t. Women,as a group, elevate children and family above many values and priorities that men way not. That’s why women are more likely to look for a “life balance” than men. We know this. Why is drawing the obvious conclusions so hard to process?

        • Similarly, the increasing popular acceptance of illegal immigration coincides almost exactly with the rise of female influence on political attitudes and the culture. Think of the children!

    • Agreed, the phrasing in this wording ‘unanticipated consequence of women having equal access to levers of power’ is particularly rude, unusually so for our host who usually does not sound this much.

      ‘Stage mothers’ has become stage parents, rah-rah. I can understand wanting to support children, but the better support was not to force a two-year-old to spin around in public if they aren’t ready for it. Children don’t exist to validate parents’ old dreams, but to achieve their own. This starts to smack of the child pageants to have toddlers doing formal stuff on a stage instead of play and exploration. If this is supposed to be a casual event where all the children share the spotlight, the director should have made policy clear and bitten the bullet to usher both off the stage and stop the show’s interruption…

      • I don’t know what’s rude about it, Marie. It’s a fact. Just like the fact that giving women equal opportunities in employment has devastated public education, since the system can’t count on a wealth of smart and able women willing to work for relatively small compensation.

        The influence of women on the culture has increased exponentially: hence, for example, increasing risk aversion regarding children’s activities. I would attribute much of Obama’s feckless and weak foreign policy to the increased feminization of attitudes about confrontation and national defense. The anti-gun hysteria is substantially female-led. Not all women dislike guns, but compared to men there’s no contest.

        There are plenty of examples of positive unanticipated consequences as well, and like the negative ones, they don’t change the fact that women always deserved equal rights and opportunities.

        That doesn’t change the facts, and acknowledging the facts here isn’t “rude.”

          • How would you ever get that out of anything I’ve written?

            How could women be finally permitted to have a coequal position in society, with all the attendant power and influence after centuries of being restrained and subjugated, and not have a substantial effect on cultural trends, attitudes, biases and priorities? What’s even remarkable about that obvious observation? It’s not a breach of common sense to place family and children higher on the priority list…I think there needs to be some balancing, and that women as a group tend to seek a different balance than men…not better or worse, necessarily, but different.

        • It’s an interpreted fact, though, not a raw fact.

          I understand the connection with the decline in quality education, since the opportunity costs for women in education have increased to be on par with those of men (though women have a slightly higher opportunity cost when it comes to family, which is what people complaining about wage gaps don’t understand). That makes sense from an economic standpoint.

          However, I don’t have access to the raw facts you used when you came up with the interpreted fact that women have changed the culture to be overly compassionate. I do, though, have the concepts to describe what’s happening.

          Overall, progressives seem to be declaring a war on rules. It’s understandable that rules have a bad reputation. Historically, rules have been used by those in power to exploit others, or they’ve been based on ignorance and have caused problems when people refuse to reconsider them. The progressive theme seems to be that if a historically oppressed group is still harmed by rules, then the rules must still be either exploitative or ignorant.

          At no point is anyone allowed to say, “No, these rules are no longer a problem. If we remove any more then society will start breaking down. At this point, people just need to get stronger to cope with the rules, just as if the rules were a natural environment (air conditioning notwithstanding).”

          Of course, as progressives continue to remove rules, the people who can’t cope with the rules will fare much worse without them. The solution is fairly obvious, though. You just establish rules to protect them against those oppressive people who are so much more successful that it simply has to be powered by exploitation.

          Now, I’m not saying that we don’t have any rules that are exploitative or ignorant, and I’m not saying that any groups are doomed to eternal failure. However, if a group is facing a problem and at no point do they apply growth mindset towards solving it, they will not succeed regardless of how many rules they have in their favor.

          With the above in mind, if you run through the laundry list of progressive positions, the only one that doesn’t seem to fit the pattern is climate change. From abortion to feminism to minority poverty to illegal immigration to LGB and transgender issues, all of them are based on the theme of, “In the process of doing whatever I want, I hurt myself on this barrier. Time to blow up the barrier!” I can identify with that. It’s untempered hubris and wrath. That was my approach to the world when I was ten. And it’s not always wrong, either. There are lots of structures that need to be overhauled, especially ones connected with the above issues. Sooner or later, though, if you go around smashing through structures without putting up better things in their place, you’re going to take out something load-bearing. At some point, you have to learn to work within the restrictions you have, and when you change the world, you do so with finesse, humility, and a respect for how other people are affected by what you are changing.

          So no, I don’t think that progressives are more feminized than conservatives. I think that conservatives have the arrogance of old age (“that’s the way it’s always been done, it was good enough for me, and it’s for your own good”) and progressives have the arrogance of early youth (“I’m going to do whatever I want and you’re just trying to spoil my fun”). This isn’t a new thing for humans. What is new is that I’m going to empower people to see each other past their arrogance.

          • “Overly compassionate” is a value judgment. I believe that, but it is not objectively true. There is no question in my mind, however, that women have elevated compassion, sympathy, “caring” as society values that compete with pragmatic policy. I also doubt that the influence of this change is only felt on the left.

              • Yes, sure. There is no generalization about women, but rather the obvious impact women have made on the culture. I honestly don’t now how anyone can deny it. Women are NOT more maternal, as a group, than men? They are NOT more averse to violence? They do NOT prefer consensus and collaboration? They are NOT the primary drivers of “Think of the children”? Their entrance into the work place did NOT prompt acceptance of flex time, family leave, day care? No?

                What strange tribe of women have you encountered?

                • Ah, I see. Your generalization refers to what values women profess and seek in policy, and the effects therefrom. That makes more sense to me. I took the generalization as referring to what women accomplish by their actions. I tend to mostly see the flaws in how people actually behave, and so my impressions of people as a whole growing up were not based on what people were trying to do.

                  I still think my way of describing things is more applicable. The issue is not so much what people want as how they get it. By all means, we should be helping children all over the world. I think it’s good that we’re concerned about that. We just have to make sure that we have a sense of what all the effects of our actions will be, not just the effects we intend.

      • Agreed. I get the father’s urge to spring to his daughter’s help and the urge is difficult to resist. Sometimes, though, doing nothing is the right course.

        For instance, three years ago, our son was 11 years of age at a swim competition. He was supposed to swim the 200 meter butterfly, and was very close to earning a TAGS time (which would have earned him a the ability to swim in the state championship – a big deal here). He and his friends were goofing off, not paying attention to the timeline. The meet directors decided to alternate heats, one girl heat, one boy, etc., and made an announcement amount the alternating heats. I was sitting within 50 feet, watching him goof off with his friends.

        My wife and I fought back every instinct to get him in line but we decided to let it happen. He missed his swim and his chance to make his TAGS cut at that meet. We also let his coach discipline him for not being where he needed to be. Our son learned a valuable lesson and is much more focused. He has not missed another swim since.


    • women just can’t win, can they?

      I have to agree with Spartan, here. I think the comment is a bridge too far, in that those emotions/characteristics are not limited to women. We have this problem as a culture, but that is not, in my humble opinion, something we can lay at the feet of women in general.

  5. if i ever get married and my husband asks a father to get on stage at one of my rehearsals,or performances I would be a widower in short order.,but i also do not and will not start training kids for theatre until they’ve are ten, when i have a script that call for a 8 year old i get a 10 or 12 year old. I have been training kids for performance for a long time, and starting to soon is detrimental to their development. Just like the ballet teacher that starts point before they are twelve should be jailed for child abuse, not that i have an opinion.

  6. In general I think that these two stories are nothing more and nothing less than heart-warming stories of how some parents have chosen to react to situations involving their children; however, Jack’s point about the parent choosing to put a two year old child in a tutu to be paraded on a stage is a solid ethical point.

    I have absolutely no problem with teaching young children dancing, it’s good for coordination, socialization, working together, etc, etc but “performances” should be limited to the parents only, no costumes, and held in dance practice rooms not on a stage. I think this should be done until the dance students are at least a teenager and choose to be paraded. Dance schools are unethically promoting these performances to line their pocket books.

    I also have a problem with children in theatrical shows that are open to the public.

      • As I said I don’t think there is anything at all wrong with training earlier, but no big “public’ish” dance recital performances.

        I agree with you about point but I’d push it further. Depending on the individual students joint development I might even push that up to 14 for a lot of students, there is plenty of beautiful ballet without point.

        I’ve seen way too many injuries.

    • Sadly, my girls currently are taking a hiatus from dance to pursue other activities. I can tell you however that the girls — and I mean all of them — looked forward to the costumes and being on stage. I don’t know if non-family members came to the performances (I sure wouldn’t want to spend my time at a dance recital). Each recital had about 200-250 students, and maybe 1 or 2 each performance got stage fright. We didn’t pay extra for costumes at our studio and each family received two free tickets — of course, all of that was baked into the overall tuition I am sure.

      • My daughter was in dance schools from about 6 or 7 to 17, I voiced my opinion about this parading and was overruled, she also performed in quite a few theatrical performances from 10-17 years old. There really is a huge difference between children dancing for the parents of their classmates who they see multiple times a week as opposed to dancing for the parents of every single dance student at the dance school that has 200-250 students (that’s similar numbers to both of the dance schools my daughter went to).

      • I’m sure it was baked into the tuition – a lot of studios here don’t let the parents know what costumes will cost until it’s getting very close to performance, plus not only do you not get free tickets, you have to buy ten tickets, or little Janey can’t dance in the show, and wouldn’t it be a shame since she’s worked so hard for this moment…

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