father daughter prom
/ Nurture /

Theo and Rick James


A black Nissan Pathfinder pulled up and Superfreak was hitting a crescendo as we put our bags in the back. I had a hunch this wasn’t going to be a garden variety ride to LAX.

Theo is from Inglewood, not far from where he picked us up.

It started with small talk. Where do you live? How’s your night going? What’s your craziest Uber driver story? Do you have any kids?

His demeanor totally changed.

He started in with his son.  “He goes to school a few blocks from here actually.  He’s about to turn 11 in two weeks but if he heard me say that he’d quickly let you know that it’s actually 12 days.”  He shook his head in an I know he got that from me kind of way and laughed to himself. “He still likes being around daddy all the time unlike his sister.”

Demeanor change, take two.

“She’s about to graduate from High School” His face lit up – he couldn’t contain his pride. “I’ve raised her from day one and let me tell you, there is no playbook. I’ve done the best I could.  You just learn as you go. And you keep going.”

Prom is Near

Theo’s only rule is completely reasonable.  He has to meet the guy who is taking his first born to the big event.  He got pushback on his policy, but stood firm.  His daughter’s ‘first choice’ stopped returning text messages when she asked him to come over and meet her dad.  Weeding out the riff-raff.  Well played Theo.

Intent on making this milestone special, he took matters into his own hands.  He set up a dinner with old family friends.  His daughter and this candidate used to hang out a lot back in elementary school. Just a casual dinner at Chilli’s with everyone in attendance – and it sounded like EVERYONE.  “After dinner they gave each other a cute hug and exchanged numbers.” Success.

“Kids these days don’t wear the good stuff like we did back in the day.  They all want these thin stretchy pants, crazy jackets, and NO damn cummerbund.” Theo was baffled by that trend and he also knew this kid’s parents didn’t have money to spend on prom gear. He insisted on covering all the expenses.  A custom suit, shoes, shirt, a haircut, and a pocket square to match his daughter’s dress.  “Nobody is going to be looking at him anyway but I want him to feel good.”

“Next week I’m driving to pay for the Escalade rental.”  He wanted to be the chauffer but was quickly vetoed.  Theo’s sister is ably filing those shoes.

It Gets Better

Jackson 5’s ABC fills the air.  Nice playlist Theo.  “Yeah I really want this to be a special moment for her, but not more special than our Daddy Daughter Proms.”  They’ve gone for the past 9 years and plan to continue the tradition.  “We have the best time, It’s been going on for 25 years and some people haven’t missed one yet.  I tell her, it doesn’t matter, wheel me in.  If you have to feed me, sobeit, we’re going to keep this going.”

Theo.

Just a guy from Inglewood.

Inspiring a couple of strangers in his back seat to be better Dads.

Ryan and I, three girls between the two of us, spent our flight home trying to figure out how to make time go by more slowly…

and how to be more like Theo.

photo by ELIZA