Years before I had children, one of my mentors mentioned that he dated each of his daughters while they were growing up. I remember thinking, “Yeah, that’s cool.” So now I have a daughter, Glory, who’s 8 and a half. And from time to time, we go out on dates.

Which jogs a memory for me. Glory is maybe four, and she’s sitting on my lap, gazing into my eyes. She reaches out, taking one of my cheeks in each little hand. She tilts my head 30 degrees, and tilts her own the opposite direction to match. And then gives me a peck on the lips, straight on. She pulls back, smiling huge. “Now we are maweed, daddy.” And I melt into a sentimental puddle. “That’s fine with me, sweetie-pies. We’re married until you’re 16.” (I actually said that. I actually meant it).

Last night I went on a date with my little princess. This is the first time she wanted to dress up for it. Shauna did her hair, she put on some jewelry, some lip gloss, and some bona fide princess charm. “She’s dressed to the nines,” Shauna warned me. “So make sure you tell her how beautiful she looks.” Yeah, yeah. Of course.

And then Glory is standing in front of me, eyes sparkling like diamonds. She’s so tall, slender, lovely. Breathtaking, actually, and so very grown up looking. She literally took my breath away, this little bundle all grown up that still wants to hold my hand (see photo). She coyly looks up at me, wanting my approval. I give it, I POUR it.

“So, you want to go?” she asks, playful, with a trace of blush and shyness. And I realize: This isn’t a play date like we used to have when she was little. This one is real. This one is practice. So I open doors for her, both in and out of the car. We hold hands. I speak my adoration and admiration. I buy her a bouquet of flowers. She melts.

“You’re treating me like I’m your wife,” she comments at one point. “No, I’m treating you like you’re my date, my treasure,” I reply. “And any guy that doesn’t treat you like this isn’t good enough for you.” She pauses, thinking hard, then nods. I pray that the message gets through.