I love my little girl. I still call her “Little Girl.” She’s now 14, as tall as her mother, and full of aspirations, new feelings, and visions of a coming future.
I remember when I first learned that my wife was pregnant. I was stunned, scared, and in denial. I could think of no way that this would work. I was selfish, and still very much a boy (no matter what my biological age was then). Never having had a father figure of any kind, I just couldn’t conceive that I could manage. I was worried. I didn’t know what to do.
The only experience I had with fathering was being the stepfather to my wife’s son. He turned out to be a fine young man (that’s for another post), despite my attempts at fathering.
I remember when I learned that this new baby was going to be a girl. I can still feel the excitement that struck me then, palpably running up my spine. It was an odd combination of something I can now only describe as a couple of pots of coffee, combined with something intoxicating, and even otherworldly. “How freaking exciting,” I said to myself then, “A little girl!!!” I still feel that excitement every single day.
She was born in Mississippi. As the rain storms would arrive in the summer, she and I would jump in the water from the flash floods that would unleash raging streams, and create huge, knee-deep puddles of water, in our yard. Having a small, giggling partner to do that with was sheer joy.
I was a police officer then. I worked the night shift, and got off about 6 am. Getting home, I took over for my wife who would then go to work until mid-afternoon. I would stay awake until my wife returned home. It’s funny that now I don’t remember the sleep-deprivation that I must have experienced then.
Day after day after day, my daughter and I lived this sweet life. I would give her the bottle full of mom’s milk. I changed her diapers. I rocked her to sleep. I played with her. I would carry her about in one of those little backpack things that allows you to carry the baby right up against your chest. Her favorite song then (and mine too), to which I would rock her to sleep against my chest, was Grace (Write Me), by the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies. Odd song, I know, to fall asleep to, but it was our tune.
Now, many years later, she has grown into a bright, beautiful young lady. She is exceptionally gifted as an artist. She writes; she paints; she dreams.
She now produces an amazingly large amount of paintings. Just when I think the last one was her best, then comes another one that blows the last one out of the water. I sometimes think that she may suspect I compliment her artwork just because I’m her dad. Actually, I would probably compliment her in some way, even if her art was not good. The fact is, though, that she genuinely has busloads of talent! This is recognized by others as well. At a 2012 art exhibition, her self-portrait won a 2nd place prize. This year, at the same 2013 art exhibition, a different self-portrait (patterned along the style of well known artist, Frida Kahlo) won 1st place!
Even more impressive is the fact that she possesses an inner discipline (even if she might not be fully aware of it) with which she works to develop her talent. She goes to art class every single week, disciplined, and working toward developing the talent with which she was born. It’s impressive.
With this same quality of self-discipline, she manages through these tumultuous teenage years. There’s so much going on for a young lady. Middle school, high school, boys (ugh!). One wish I have is that she comes to recognize the strength that she possesses. She has such a reservoir of tenacity and resilience. I don’t know if she knows it.
My daughter, Summer, has taught me how to protect, how to live for another person, and how to tune into, and be patient with, feelings. My daughter has taught me to look at all girls, all women, in a special light. I don’t know if she knows she has served me in this way. She gave me this special perspective by coming to me as a daughter. I’ll probably tell her one day.
We live in a sex-saturated society in which the most base instincts of humankind are paraded about as if they deserve applause. Just turn on the television. It’s everywhere. Many men often follow this pervasive influence.
I see how our country’s obsession with a sex-pervaded media, alongside other very conflicting messages about the sanctity of marriage, contributes to a very confused generation of young people and to a generation of parents who are, largely, indifferent.
Being the (extremely lucky) father of my daughter has highlighted for me the truth that, every time a man gawks at a woman, solicits a prostitute, or views pornography, he is treating that woman, all women, as objects, as nothing but flesh. Modernity can too easily inculcate this unhealthy and unsacred tendency in men, and the acceptance of it, in women.
As I walk the corridors of my busy workplace, I meet all manner of females, young and old. When I see them, I see my daughter, and I think of how every girl (regardless of age) is some man’s daughter.
Let us treat all girls and women as if they are our daughters. And when we think of them, talk to them, touch them, and care for them, let’s do so gently.
I love you Summer…