The father and son in the poem “My Papas Waltz” by Theodore Roethke have a complex relationship mixed with fear, joy, and love. The boy says that he “hung on like death” when his father was dancing. This implies a sense of fear between the boy, because he does not quite trust his father to catch him. He then describes their dancing as romping, which is typically a joyful action which you do with your friends. The boy is obviously having fun. When the father finally stops dancing he carries his son off to bed. The traditional image of a father carrying his son to bed at night is one of true affection. Clearly “Papa” and the speaker have a relationship sprinkled with fear, joy, and love.