Listen up, daughters of mine. There are a few things I want you to know this Father’s Day, things your Dad won’t tell you. You know he loves you to the moon and back, and you’ve heard him say that becoming your Daddy was the best thing that’s ever happened to him. But as you get older and graduate from butterfly kisses to eye rolls I want you to remember a few things.
First of all, you terrify him. How much he loves, what he’d do for you, how he’s afraid you’ll break his heart, it’s all very scary for a sensitive man surrounded by females. So be gentle.
You don’t remember this, oldest girl, but you wanted very little to do with your Dad the first year we were a family. You cried when I went out and cried when he put you to bed instead of me. Only mommy would do because that’s all you knew. The social workers were worried about attachment but you and I were like superglue from day one. Your Dad tried so hard and was so patient but your rejection hurt him deeply. He read books, asked for advice and ate a lot of pizza. Eventually he won you over and you started to trust him. Now you fly out the door, golf clubs in hand, without a look back or a goodbye to me. You jump in the front seat of his truck and wear his hat like you were born to be his daughter.
Your Dad defies most of the TV stereotypes around bumbling, incompetent Dads. Okay yes, he was compared to Phil Dunphy when he took you frog hunting at Grandma and Grandpa’s wearing only ballet flats and leopard-print sandals.
And yes, he’s been known to send you to school sans underwear and wearing tights instead of pants (“I thought they were leggings!”). But he doesn’t consider time spent with you “babysitting” and he’s just as happy watching your ballet class as he is when you play hockey. He’s not afraid to attempt a braid or pick out earrings.
This may come as a surprise to you but your Dad is also capable of pouring glasses of juice, plugging in the iPad or delivering emergency toilet paper. He has arms AND legs so let’s remember to put those to good use. Please.
He wants to be close to you. He will tease you, put you in time-out, take away your privileges and make you think he’s the meanest guy around but it’s all because he loves you. Daddy is harder on you than I am and that’s a good thing. It’s because he’s better at being consistent and sticking to the rules and expectations we have for your behaviour. I will give in faster and more often because this could quite possibly be the seventeenth time today you’ve asked me if you can put on eye shadow. I spend more time with you so I know your moods and your triggers a little better. I’m more selective about what I call you on because I have a bigger bank of incidents to choose from. I also have less stamina at the end of the day, which is probably why you wait until bedtime to ask me about the eye shadow. Or you’re trying to kill me, who knows. But your Dad? Your Dad won’t give in. He’ll make the tough decision and follow through because he wants you to learn something from this and grow up to be a really amazing person.
Your Dad doesn’t mind if you say “vagina”. As you get older your body will start to change and strange things will start happening (more on this later). Your Dad might be the last person you want to discuss this with, but trust me girls, he’s seen it all. Being in the hospital with me really opened his eyes to the wonders of the female body. Vaginal ultrasounds, catheter insertions, granny panties, horse-sized maxi pads, constipation… been there done that and he’s still standing. So don’t shut him out because you think he won’t understand. I can’t promise he’ll buy your tampons or refill your birth control prescription (mostly because you’ll be 35 and living on your own by the time this is required) but your Dad will always try his hardest to understand your world. Please let him.
My own Father, your Grandpa, wasn’t the easiest person to live with. He could be the life of the party one-minute, then display his terrible temper the next. I never really knew what version of him I was going get. With maturity and experience, I now understand that he probably needed help and never got it, but I was quick to close myself off to him because I didn’t understand his moods. A lot of women my age will tell similar stories about being “afraid” of their Fathers because he was the disciplinarian who set and enforced all the rules., who doled out the punishment physical or otherwise. But when you grow up, my beautiful girls, you’ll be able to tell a much different story - one that isn’t about fear, demands for respect, punishment or distance. You will remember a man who loved you beyond reason, took care of your physical, mental and spiritual health, and didn’t bat an eye when you asked him to get the sand out of your butt crack; a Dad who enforced the rules but was patient and fair, who agonized over every harsh word and every punishment.
So let’s go easy on the guy. And remember what I said about the juice.