Daughters Help Dads Find What They Never Knew Was Lost
Daughters Help Dads Find
What They Never Knew Was Lost
My daughter is my first child. The day she was born some part of me was also born. There is a quality in any of us which we recognize as us and us alone when we look in the mirror. Looking into my daughter’s new eyes, I saw that quality for the first time in someone else. Dads and daughters. Thank you God. One can be wise about many things but one doesn’t want to be wiser than love.
Shortly after my daughter learned to walk, her great joy was to knock me over. I would get down on my haunches, and she would race at me, and we would tumble together. I was to her a tower of strength and in tottering the tower she was stronger yet. We both knew we were playing. Time would change the game. Fathers cannot always be stronger than their children but can always be a source of strength.
Good parenting requires us to remind our children of their strengths. Life will remind them of their weaknesses. As it has reminded us.
My wife’s line when our children were young was: “Either you pay now or you pay later.” She was right. Almost, entirely right. We paid then. And we pay now. Parents never stop paying. Love always has a cost of admission. “Take a little piece of my heart,” sang Janis Joplin.
My wife nursed our daughter until she was well past two. Some thought this was too long. Other’s admired my wife’s patience. Dad was dry gulch. I could read stories. Make jokes. Only God makes moms.
Parenting isn’t anything if it isn’t a study in patience. I’ve lost my patience often with my daughter. Sometimes she’s helped me find it. Daughters help dads find feelings they never knew were lost.
Daughters are hot. They melt a dad’s heart. My daughter, as a child, would climb into my lap, and I was hers. Even when I thought I was inflexible she made me a yogi. She could bend me anyway she wanted. With a pouting lip, daughters turn dads inside out, and fathers find there is value in being vulnerable. Daughters get under you skin and you’re pleased to have the company.
As my daughter approached puberty I had to watch my approach. The little girl who I cuddled now held me at a distance. When I tied to kiss her, she would turn her lips like my Aunt Becky when she didn’t want her lipstick smeared. I was put in my place, put on notice, put on hold. For a few years. A few of the longest years in my life.
While I was chillin’, my wife and daughter were bonding. I couldn’t come up with the glue. No matter what I did, nothing stuck. I wasn’t held in disgrace, I simply wasn’t held. And I was learning. I was learning that sometimes in life when others don’t want to hold you, you can’t hold it against them.
My answer was to make hay while the sun shines with my son. And I basked in this bonding. My son was also paying attention. He was learning that a dad was also a man. That men have feelings that dads sometimes can’t show. As my daughter was becoming a woman, my son and I were working on becoming better men. Becoming someone is usually very becoming.
One day my daughter opened the door to her room and found I was still there. She even realized, I think, how long I had been waiting. It wasn’t that I hadn’t shouted and ranted during the “ice age” of the last few years, but love melts obstacles. I didn’t want to be angry. I wanted to be hugged. Fathers don’t get enough time to get even. What father would want to claim victory over their child? Victory for any of us is in scaling who we have been and ascending to who we might yet be.
Re-united, my daughter put me in harness. Here is a horse, she saw, who will help pull me through the fields I must plow. And like the earlier man whose eyes would puddle when she pouted, I took to the duty with diligence. I helped her study for tests and learned that parenting tests all of us. Whether she said please or not I was pleased to be working with her. Though manners matter, love is not always well mannered. And people with manners, we discover, are not always loving.
Teenage daughters are not only trying on clothes. They are also trying on emotions. And all things considered, no matter where they’re going they’re going there emotionally and they’d rather ride a roller-coaster than a bus. More often than less I’d be busy reacting to my daughter’s feelings when she was only taking her feelings out for a spin to see, well…how they felt. It took me a while and a few more bruised moments to catch this spin. But I did. Even took a few rides with her. Sometimes being a reasonable dad means not having a reason for everything you do.
Whatever else dads may be, daughters only need them to be dads. Dads don’t need to be famous and are no less important because they aren’t. Dads certainly don’t need to be good looking but do need to sometimes look the other way. Dads don’t have to be smart, but it is a wise daughter who learns her father loves her. Dads and daughters sometimes forget how important they are to each other. Sometimes it’s too late to remember. Not only dads and daughters need to remember that.
When my daughter calls home, I get the first ten seconds and then she invariably wants to talk with my wife. I used to feel hurt. The older I get, the happier I am just to have feelings. Women say that men should express their feelings. I suspect we all should. But a lot of feelings defy description. And as an old black jazz singer once told me: “Some things are better enjoyed than discussed.”
My daughter and I write notes to each other. Our notes have become letters. Letters are a lost form where my daughter and I have found each other. Most importantly we both know that it isn’t language that links us. What isn’t said between people is also heard.
I have pictures of my daughter and me on the desk in the office where I am writing this piece. I see her across the years. She’s changed a lot. Me too. She has more hair. I have less. We compliment each other. It is a simple symbiosis. We fit. Together. Over time.
Peace and blessing is what I wish for my daughter. I want her to know that finding one’s peace is its own blessing. And any blessing that does not bring you peace is no blessing. We bless our children by letting them know how much we are blessed to have them as our children.
I don’t know what lies in store for me and my daughter. More of the same, I suspect, only different. She’s about to come into her majority. She is on her own path now though her dirty clothes still find their way home. When she asks me to go somewhere with her, I say, “Sure. Why not. To you I’m Wallet-Man.” But money does not hold my daughter and me together. We do that. I love her. And she loves me. I can see that, in her eyes.
Noah benShea Copyright 2012.