Life changes overnight when you become a father. Itâ€™s difficult to explain but easy to understand when that day occurs. You see your daughter for the first time and understand how fragile and reliant on you she is, to care for her until she becomes of age to tend for herself. Naturally you have prepared the usual things, crib, playpen, car seats, etcâ€¦ but as the days, months and years pass you canâ€™t help to think about what you will imprint on her. What you will leave with her long after you are gone. The stuff that helps her get through life unharmed, perhaps even without a broken heart , maybe to show her how she can be happy without all the material things hers peers, friends and others cherish so needlessly.
When my little girl was born her mom and I were in a tough time. We didnâ€™t last but 6 months after she came to us, and of course it was no fault of hers, but a number of things that accumulated in her parentâ€™s relationship that caused the parting.
Looking back on those days, her mom and I only wanted to do what was best for her albeit we differed in ways of how we believed it should be. I can say that I was distraught with how the whole thing played out but I am grateful that for the first 13 years of my daughterâ€™s life I was able to enjoy a lot of memorable time with her.
Those early years were always my favorite times. Of all the things that stuck with me the one thing that I will never forget is how I felt when she would fall asleep in my arms. From the time that she was an infant and nestled her head on my shoulder to when she was a toddler and rolled herself up in a ball for a nap against me on the couch.
â€œShe wakes and struggles to open her eyes. She reaches up from her bed to climb into my arms. She hugs tight to my chest and rests her head on my shoulder. I am reminded now, how it feels to be a fatherâ€.
I wrote that about her, one morning 14 years ago, when reflecting back on my life.
When she became a teen, my life again took a turn. This time period in our life wasnâ€™t a very good one. Itâ€™s hard enough on a fatherâ€™s relationship with his teen aged daughter when they both live in the same house, but being divorced, that was not our case. I understood the challenges I would face and not getting along well with her mom didnâ€™t help my cause. I learned through years mediating parents through their own divorces, that fighting wouldnâ€™t help my daughter see that I really loved and wanted what was best for her, so I let her choose her own path. Those years without her in my life (like it used to be) were very difficult. Although I believed that in time she would realize the man I was, it is still a hard thing to get through. I preached to others that if you stood by what you believed in, what your parents instilled in you, what values were important to teach your children and that if you showed love, then you had to make a stand. I felt that if I compromised my beliefs then I would be doing her an injustice, perhaps for the rest of her life. I needed her to remember and understand that I was her father, the same person who she adored when she was a child, and that person wasnâ€™t going to give in to certain things no matter what. It was a gamble but parents today compromise their beliefs and the things they were taught as children because they want â€œmore â€œ for their kids then they had. What a bunch of crap that is. How bad did we really have it?
I donâ€™t pretend to think I know it all when it comes to relationships. A father/ daughter relationship is a tough cookie to crumble. As a man we are wired to want to â€œfixâ€ everything, including whatever goes wrong in our daughterâ€™s life. But as a father we should realize that our daughter needs to find her on way at some point and hopefully what we showed her in her early years can help her get there. Parents today want to be friends to their children. They avoid laying down the law. They curse in front of them. They get drunk and stoned, sometimes even with them. And then, after it all, they cry out loud to their friends how their kids donâ€™t show respect towards them. I remind them how their parents would never have done the things they do in their childrenâ€™s presence and they certainly would not accept disrespect from their children but they say itâ€™s different now. Yes, sadly it is, but it wasnâ€™t going to be that way with me and my daughter. I would never want that for her and I wasnâ€™t going to let society or a divorce turn my way of thinking.
When she graduated High School I felt like an outsider looking in. She became this beautiful, intelligent, young woman who I hardly knew anymore. I understood fully how divorce can really tear apart a relationship between a parent and a child. Not being there all the time always put me in the role of the underdog. Never quite enough time to build something between us and now with her heading off to college, there never seemed to be a time to talk and maybe reconnect.
Being the person I am, I tried to remain true to what I believed. I paid the bills, tried to give her moral support and waited for a chance to get to know her again. I fully understood that itâ€™s pretty difficult for a young woman to open up to a man even if he is her father. She definitely couldnâ€™t share the things she would with her mom as easily if at all, with me. Heck some of that stuff could get embarrassing, plus as a father we donâ€™t need to know certain things!. But as years passed by things started to change and as she grew she needed support and advise and she began to turn to me for it. We began talking and spending more time together again and today we seem to be on a good path.
Itâ€™s been a challenge for both of us but I must say that I am impressed and proud of how things turned out. As a father I wanted her to understand the importance of family over friendship, the true value of a dollar, the show conviction in what you believe in and the pride that comes from earning everything you acquire in your life. As a father I would want my daughter to be strong and independent and to not have to rely on a man or the village to take care of her. To show both passions in all the things she does and compassion for the people she meets along lifeâ€™s path. That sheâ€™d never fall in love too easily, fear for a broken heart but embrace it when it happens and learn from it, and never, never become fearful that she wonâ€™t find happiness because that might happen more than once. Take the bad with the good because it makes the good even better when it happens. And remember what my mom always told me when things turn bad, â€œitâ€™s just a testâ€. After all these years and countless times of hearing it, I really have no clue what the hell that means because life itself seems to be a test. Mostly of showing patience and waiting for a point in time when you find that happy place. My advice to her would be not to wait to find happiness, but go and make it. Make a little bit everyday and when you get to be older you can look back and see that a lot of the sadness and pain is hidden deep behind all those little bits of happiness you made every day. I would also tell her that above all else stay true to who you are. Donâ€™t let anyone or anything make you into something you are not. This is one of the hardest things to do in your life because everything you believe, everything you are, and everything you do eventually effects someone else and you will always have to find a way to balance your feelings against your beliefs. You are unique, there will never be another you and you only get this one chance, so make it count.
I love youâ€¦ Your Father