Family Ties…Squid spends most of Squid’s time doing things Squid excels at. Those things include narrating livestreams of city council meetings, oozing around town in search of sunny inland weather and snacking. They do not include dancing. All of those extra appendages have a tendency to get in the way.
Maybe it’s due to lack of coordination, but Squid’s aquatic brethren rarely partake in the human tradition of the father-daughter dance, except for seahorses—but those dads abandon their offspring as soon as they birth them doing some dance-like maneuvers. Lack of good ocean-dwelling role models aside, Squid long thought the tradition was kind of cute.
Then Squid started reading contemporary commentary on the custom, and Squid realized maybe it was outdated as society evolves to rethink gender norms and the family structure. Does it exclude kids who don’t have a dad at all, or any male adult figure in their life? Is the custom advancing antiquated notions of a “normal” family? By pairing adult men with little girls to go out on a date night type event, are there overtones of power and even abuse that we should kick to the curb in the era of the Me Too movement?
Squid doesn’t have the answers to those worthwhile questions, nor does Tularcitos Elementary School Principal Ryan Peterson. (Make that “Proud Principal,” the title he uses on the Carmel Valley school website to sign letters.) After announcing the school was hosting a father-daughter dance this year—a new tradition at Tularcitos—Peterson says he heard from a couple of parents with concerns.
“I have had a number of people approach me excited that we are doing a father daughter family dance, and a few also concerned about the fact that, because this is only for daughters, we are excluding boys and not valuing all relationships in the family equally,” Peterson wrote in a May 24 newsletter to parents and guardians. “People have very eloquently expressed how one of the aspects of Tular that they love is its inclusiveness in all of our events, so the fact that this dance is not including everyone and only highlights the father-daughter relationship does not match that characteristic of our school.”
Notably, one of those concerned parents who reached Peterson was not Kate Daniels Kurz, whose two sons attend Tularcitos. Kurz did post to her personal Facebook page to air some grievances, which were captured by some of her virtual “friends” via screenshot.
“Must we single out genders in this way? Is a ‘date’ with your daughter the most appropriate way to celebrate the relationship between fathers and their daughters?” Kurz wrote. “Why not have a special event where each child—boys and girls—brings an adult that is special to them?”
One of those screenshots must have been shared with Carmel Pine Cone reporter Mary Schley, who wrote a story in the May 31 edition—the day of the dance—blaming Kurz for sinking the dance.
“Tularcitos Elementary School administrators were put on the defensive this week after Kate Daniels Kurz, former chief of staff for 5th District Supervisor Mary Adams and interim executive director of the nonprofit Gathering for Women, said the school’s inaugural father-daughter dance—a longtime tradition at many school—was akin to a ‘date’ and was creepy,” Schley wrote.
Squid’s eyes widened, because it was totally unclear to Squid why Daniels’ former employer had any relevance whatsoever to the story (though the former title also made the headline), and because Daniels’ post was private—and because, Squid’s colleague confirms, the Pine Cone never even called Daniels before publication. The Pine Cone also never called Peterson, who was surprised to learn about the story from his superintendent. And the Pine Cone article suggested that Daniels’ complaint was responsible for Peterson’s May 24 newsletter—even though he’d never talked to her or read her grievances until after the Pine Cone story was published. Fake news, anyone?
(For the record, Squid’s colleague did leave Schley a voicemail on Friday, the day the story ran, but never heard back. That’s kinda how this whole journalism thing is supposed to work.)
Daniels says she gets that nothing on the internet is truly private, but she expected a chance to explain it before she read about it in print. Besides, she was busy working last week for her current job at Gathering, landing $1.3 million in partnership with Community Human Services to create a homeless shelter in Seaside. No mention of that news in the May 31 issue of the Pine Cone.
The dance went off spectacularly, Peterson reports, with about 175 people in attendance. “I’ve had five different people contact me with concerns. Probably for every one of those, five people saying thank you and we really appreciate you holding the event,” he tells Squid’s colleague.
“It’s meant to celebrate relationships and families—that’s what the event was supposed to be about.” (Incidentally, Peterson was the winner of the Pine Cone’s 2018 “Golden Pine Cone” award for Best Principal.)
As to the future of the father-daughter dance, Peterson says it’s too soon to know. He expects a “community conversation” next year.
No telling yet whether local news outlets will participate in that conversation, or just write about what they wish the community conversation entailed, true or not.