Defining Fatherhood: A Letter to My Daughter on Her 9th Birthday
It’s incredible. It really is.
9 years ago, a nurse loaded you and your mom into the back seat of our silver Chevy Malibu, shut the door, stepped back, offered a smile and suddenly our lives began together.
Surprisingly, sometimes life is that cut and dry.
One day you’re curled inside your mother and the next day you’re here, swaddled and waiting for a ride home.
I remember the drive home from the hospital.
As the engine hummed, I tried to comprehend how 9 months raced by like they never happened, and now you were suddenly here, snuggled in the back seat with your blue eyes fixed out the back window, watching the world in reverse.
Nervous and sleep deprived, I ordered myself to pay attention, turning off the radio, checking mirrors and gripping the steering wheel at the recommended 10 and 2 positions.
In that moment it became clear–I was a father. I was your dad. And on that day, my soul responsibility was to drive my most precious cargo, you and your mother, 4 miles from hospital to home. From point A to point B without incident.
Things Change, Things Remain the Same
Haley, somehow you’re 9 years old.
And some things have changed. You’re taller, smarter, louder and more self-sufficient then I could ever imagine. You know how to divide, multiply, work an Ipad and yesterday you informed me about the central nervous system and all its complicated functions.
Yet like our first car ride together (which was an absolute success!) there remains a certitude. I’m still your dad. I’m still responsible, no matter your age or crisis and no matter how nervous and sleep deprivation I am, for getting you from point A to point B.
Raising a Daughter
As a kid, I was raised on pro wrestling and domestic weaponry.
I spent most of my young life on athletic teams bolstered by boys, roughhousing with my brothers, proving my toughness, my invulnerability.
So understand, fathering a daughter is a little odd for me. This may sound strange, but sometimes you’re a familiar mystery. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with you.
You’ve change so much, so fast, that some days I stare at you, watch you smile, cartwheel about the house and watch your blue eyes sparkle in the sunlight and wonder how all this incredible stuff happened.
And I sometimes wonder how I will handle all the incredible stuff that’s yet to come.
Watching you grow up is both exciting and terrifying.
As we stand at the threshold of those tumultuous adolescent years, I’ve been thinking greatly about what kind of dad do you need right now?
The answer, I believe, is a simple one.
A dad defined is like any good driver. Present. Focused. Anticipates dangers. Ignores distractions. Guides their child through the unpredictability of life.
A dad is there to help a child get from point A to point B.
And whether point B is your 10th birthday or some prom dress calamity or marriage or motherhood, if I did my job, if I was the dad you deserved, you’ll be prepared. You’ll meet your challenges with a patience, honesty and humility.
It’s become clear, fatherhood is not about meddling or interjecting or inflicting my will on you or filling your head with fiction. In fact, fatherhood really isn’t about the father at all. It has and always will be about the livelihood of the child.
In 9 years you’ll be 18 and things will have undoubtedly change.
You’ll be driving yourself. You’ll be standing at the cusp of adulthood and may not need me the way you do now. But despite my dwindling demand, my job description remains.
You need the dad who drove you and your mother home from the hospital 9 years ago. A dad to remain vigilance and focus.
You’ve entrusted me to listen, eliminate distractions, anticipate danger, embrace the incredible and enjoy the ride.
And my girl, I don’t want to let you down.