Saturday, October 03, 2009

Daddy's Little Girls

I don't think it matters how many times a man goes through it, there is a joyful, sobering, heartbreaking tragedy when a daughter begins the passage to becoming a woman. I remember nearly a decade ago going to the mall to shop for a homecoming dress with my eldest daughter. She held up various satiny, shimmery evening gowns, with no straps!, and beamed, "What do you think, Daddy?"

Daddy thought of her adoption day, the trip home from Colorado with a tiny premature infant with spidery E.T. fingers who fit in the sock drawer of the motel as a makeshift crib. Daddy thought of her first smile, of her ear infections and colic, of driving her around in the middle of the night in the car to put her to sleep, of changing diapers, of reading "Where the Wild Things Are" with sound effects at bedtime, of building her desk and putting up "Rainbow Bright" and "My Little Pony" wallpaper in her bedroom, of her dozens of stuffed animals, and her books, of her climbing on top of the refrigerator and getting stuck at 6AM, of her first day of school and her fourth grade math I couldn't do... "Daddy, what do you think?"

The reality was, the dress was beautiful and when she tried it on, she was radiant. No Daddy is ready for that. A Daddy has the curse of seeing his daughter both as a Daddy and as the 17 year old he once was.

Tonight my eldest baby daughter is the student body president of her law school and she's in the library preparing briefs for Moot Court competition. Tonight my baby girl is at her Homecoming Dance. We went to the mall last week and as she held up her dress...

Daddies have a vision and image of what they want their children to be. As children grow a Daddy realizes that his child is a person, not a lump of Playdoh. As hard as you push and ply and squeeze, there is an unmalleable and mysterious part that refuses to be conformed to the image. A Daddy soon realizes he has begotten an unrepeatable mystery. But that mystery is bound to his own mystery and that bond in itself is also common yet unrepeatable. Such is the Father-Daughter relationship.

Tonight I let my baby go. Tonight my baby girl, who 16 years ago, giggled hysterically while I cradled her in my arms and danced with her in our living room will dance in a young man's arms across the floor of a High School Gym. Tonight she is a young woman to everyone else, but still to me she is Daddy's little girl. Tonight she will come home to my house, but I know now not far on the horizon another's house will beckon.

But no matter the distance, no matter the age we have become or the number of years that have passed, there is nothing sweeter in a man's ear than to hear his daughter's voice say, "Daddy..."

Anyway...This is the group going out together to Homecoming. All the parents were there to take pictures. One mother said, "Are these our KIDS?" Indeed they are, and always will be.
This is my daughter and her date (of whom we approved...)
This is me and my baby... there is no preparation for this.

7 comments:

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

I know, I know......

I have two "over 20" daughters and two much younger ones.

It is both wonderful, terrifying and hard to watch them grow up........

-C said...

What a touching and beautiful reflection, Steve.

elizabeth said...

Yeah. I am over 30 now but I still love seeing my Dad (and demanding hugs!) when I am home at Christmas...

Fr. James Early said...

I'm with you, brother! As you know, my oldest just went off to college. Thankfully, her dorm is only about 10 miles from our home, and she comes home at least once a week.

margaret said...

What a lovely, lovely looking girl!
When I was that age it was de rigueur to wear a dress that trailed the floor by an inch (all the better to break your neck at Scottish country dancing which is a sibling of square dancing) but those dresses take the biscuit for being gorgeous... perhaps it's seeing the glamorous shoes... I feel old ;)

Anonymous said...

As the father of a 20 month old daughter who is becoming more her own person every day, this post really connected. I'm trying to soak up as much as I can because I know I'll never get these moments back. Your reflections help me keep it all in perspective.

thegeekywife said...

I agree with elizabeth: I too demand hugs from Daddy. :)