On Being A Father To A Daughter

As a child, my musical world consisted almost entirely of 80’s country. Don’t be concerned, my therapist says I’m making great progress.

A song titled “That’s My Job” by Conway Twitty had a real, emotional impact on me back then. It was released in 1987 when I was ten years old. I won’t bore you with the entire lyrics, but it opens with a young boy having a bad dream that his father had died. He gets scared and wakes his dad and says,

“Daddy, I’m so afraid. How could I go on with you gone that way? Don’t want to cry anymore, so may I stay with you?’

And he said, ‘that’s my job. That’s what I do. Everything I do is because of you, to keep you safe with me. That’s my job you see.'”

I have always had a great relationship with my dad and this song always runs through my head when I think about the type of father he has been. The damn song still makes me cry.

A couple of days ago, my ten year old daughter woke up about half an hour early, walking into the living room with a troubled look on her face. After asking “What’s wrong, honey?” and no responses, I got up, put my arm around her and walked her over to the couch. We sat down and she curled herself into a ball in my lap.

I asked again, “Is everything okay?”
“I had a dream that something bad happened to you and they took me away from you.” She then proceeded to cry, curled up in my lap with my arms wrapped around her. A few minutes later, she was fine.

I, on the other hand, was not.

My life has come full circle. I’m now the father in that song and I’m not sure what to think about that. Even more frightening, I am raising two daughters; which, full disclosure here, I’ve never been a daughter. I’m not sure exactly how all that is supposed to go.

I realize nothing I can do will guarantee that my daughters grow up to have a good life, but I am slowly figuring out that these pre-teen years are pretty significant. I am the most important male in their life right now. Sometime in the next few years, some teenage boys are going to come along and try to take my place. Right now, they still think I walk on water and I better make the most of that.

The best I can figure, I need to give them the rated G version of how I treat their mother. They need to know that I think they are beautiful, that I love curling up with them to watch a movie. I laugh with them, tease them, encourage them. I can see the excitement on their faces when I drop in on them in their rooms, just to ask them what they are doing. And then listen to them.

Last night, my eight year old asked me to come to her room and watch a movie with her. We curled up on her tiny bed and watched “The Book of Life”. About halfway through, the other one came in and joined us. It was a tight fit, but we managed. The movie was nothing special, but it was absolutely the best use of 90 minutes on a Friday evening.

I feel like I have to careful not raise two spoiled princesses, so I don’t mind being the disciplinarian in our home. But sometimes it feels like I’m beating them with a stick when all I did was give them my “I’m disappointed” look.

What an amazingly fragile time in a young girl’s life. Scares the hell out of me, to be honest.

I want to enjoy these days. I still get to tuck my girls in every night. They are still young enough to want a kiss on the lips. If anyone remembers that cheesy song from the mid-90’s “Butterfly Kisses”, I know the day is coming when they are going to say, “You know how much I love you, Daddy, but if you don’t mind I’m only gonna kiss you on the cheek this time.”

God, they are growing up fast.

Speaking of growing up, I pulled off some ninja level “Daddy’s intuition” today.

My ten year old had asked her mom if they could go shopping. She’s outgrowing most of her clothes and wanted some new outfits. My wife decided to make a day of it, hitting several different stores and making sure they got everything on her list that they could find.

They got home, showed me all the new clothes and then I called my daughter over.

“Before I ask my question, what is my rule about lying?”
“You get in more trouble for lying than for whatever it was you lied about.”
“Okay, so I’m going to ask you one time…who are you trying to look pretty for?”
I’m smiling as I ask this. I tell you that because I didn’t want you to imagine me using my mean voice.

“Umm, well, I want to look nice for the other kids at school..”(cheesy grin)“But also…there’s this boy who always comes to summer school and we hang out and we talk a lot and I kinda wanted to look pretty for him, too.”

I just smiled and gave her a big hug and told her thank you for telling me the truth. In the background, my wife says, “What! I didn’t know anything about a boy!”

I cupped her face, looked down at her and said, “Remember, I’m your daddy. I just know these things.”