This summer I have been thinking quite a bit about daughters and their dads. As I prepare to move to Rwanda, I am reminded of conversations past that have stuck with me and become a part of who I am. When I last moved (to Nashville), I decided it would be difficult, too much, to do the move by myself. I had outgrown moving in a car and needed a small U-Haul, and decided to ask my brother or a friend to help. When I told my dad about this, he reminded me that I chose to ask for help, which is fine, but that it was not because I was incapable of doing it myself. A seemingly small distinction, but it was an important reminder: I am strong enough and creative enough to make it happen, but chose the strength of friends. This, my friends, was the reminder of a great dad. No, I do not have to do it all myself, but it is not because I am incapable.
I remember crawling into my dad’s lap as a little girl. I would sit there while he talked with other people, and he would rub my back; I was completely safe and happy. In middle school, I would go out on our boat while my dad SCUBA dived, just waiting until I was 12, old enough to get my Jr SCUBA license and join him at depth. In high school, he was always around at night to proof papers, and during the holidays, we dove together. When I struggled along the way to getting my masters and doctorate, there was dad on the sidelines cheering me on, believe in me more than I believed in myself. At 30, I still search out the place on the couch next to him where I can cuddle up with his arm around me. I am, and always have been, a daddy’s girl.
What I want you to know is this: a girl’s relationship with her dad matters. Growing up, I knew that I was beautiful and strong, that I could persevere, and that I was loved. I was blessed to grow up in a home where both my parents loved and supported me, and in communities that did the same. I don’t want to diminish those factors, but today I want to share with you the the influence my dad has had on my life.
I am beautiful. I know this because I was regularly told so by my dad. Not every day in way that would make me wonder if it was actually true, but at all the right times. When I made an effort to look nice, it was recognized. If I was prancing around the house looking for affirmation, I would find it. No need to go hunting for it elsewhere. When I left home for college, I was able to rest on this foundation. My brothers have fallen into my father’s footsteps, a fact for which I am eternally grateful. If society ever makes me question my beauty, all I have to do is turn to the men of my family and they will remind of my foundation. I am beautiful.
I am strong. I remember being in fourth grade helping my dad carry the big ice chest down the stairs. In middle and high school, I carried my dive tanks and gear; always trying to carry as much at a time as dad. To this day, we rough-house; although dad can still put me on the ground, I have surprised more than a few men who thought they could tickle me without repercussions. Verbal banter in our house started over breakfast where dad, already caffeinated, would work on waking our minds up. Through the years, I learned the basic of argument, logic, and reason through discussions at home. I learned that my opinion mattered and that I was not to be discounted – physically or mentally – because of my age or my gender. I am strong.
I know how to persevere. During the summer break in elementary school, I would sign up for a 10, 50, or a 100 mile swim. I did not like swimming without the team, so dad swam every lap with me, and I (or, really, we) always met the goal. In high school, I was expected to do my best – and dad was always there cheering me on. He made needed tutoring possible, proofread papers, and simply to encouraged the nightly studying. I learned to believe in myself and to persevere.
All of this was done with love. I knew I was loved and the world knew it too. I could mess up or falter, but that never impacted his love for me. If I was hurt, I would be picked up and surrounded. That love, my friends, changes the world. In the midst of this love, there was safety to discover and be encouraged in the things I loved. There was safety to grow and become a woman.
I consider myself blessed to be a daddy’s girl. Not every girl has the gift of the opportunity to become one. To all the girls and women who read this, I hope that you were given that gift. For you dads and future dads reading this, know that your words and actions have the ability to transform.
To my dad, thank you. Thank you for giving me the gift of being a daddy’s girl.
Happy Birthday dad.