to BE the dad I want/need to be.
I was around the corner from the kitchen just going down the hall toward our bedroom when I heard our oldest daughter start talking to my wife, Anna, “Hey Mom….” I didn’t hear the rest of that sentence but as I passed from one room to the next in the middle of my errand I heard Mackenzie say, “my puberty….” — What?!?! You’re not even 10! screamed in my head.
I didn’t hear anything after that except for my wife’s laughter and the zinging of a million thoughts ricocheting in my skull. “Wasn’t it just yesterday we took you home from the hospital?” “You can’t be old enough to be talking about puberty. I have no idea what to do with that.” “Wait. Slow down. I’m not the dad I want to be yet.”
After I finished the little errand I was doing before unintentionally overhearing bits of their conversation, I walked into the living room to join Mackenzie, Anna, and our other three daughters. Their puberty conversation was over and I did what every ‘good dad’ would do. I didn’t say anything. My thoughts were still swirling in my head and I needed to process – alone and in silence.
I know ‘Dad’ is the most important and influential ‘boy’ in my daughters’ lives at this stage (ages 9, 8, 5, 2). I take that seriously. I do my best to engage and encourage each of them. I know I’m not perfect. There isn’t a ‘perfect’ when it comes to fatherhood in this life. At the same time, I’m learning I have given myself too much leeway to ‘become’ a good dad rather than just ‘being’ the one I want to be.
We’ve all heard some version of “Why put off til tomorrow what you can do today?” We need to take that to heart as a dads. We can’t get today back and tomorrow is closer than we think. (My ‘baby’ is talking about puberty!) If we aren’t having the conversations or spending the time with our daughters (and sons) we know we should be, instead waiting until we’re ‘ready’ or the ‘right time’, we’ll miss the window. That’s not acceptable.
Truth is I’ll never be ‘ready’ to have the dad/daughter conversations and heart-to-heart connections I imagine I need to have to help my daughters know they are loved, cherished, and deserving of respect. What is ‘ready’? What conversation is that?
Quite frankly, each time I’ve tried to plan and deliver the “Sweetie, I want you to know I love you very much” conversation or connection it doesn’t connect the way I imagine. On the other hand, when I set aside my agenda/list of ‘to dos’ or whatever other distracting ‘priority’ I’m obsessed with and say, “Yes” to one of my daughters’ requests for me, just me – “Yes” to a snuggle when I had planned to run an errand, “Yes” to looking (really looking) at their latest creation instead of starting dinner, “Yes” to playing ‘fort’ in the basement when I was planning to turn on the game and ‘relax for just a minute’ – the connection is deep and meaningful for both of us.
My daughters will learn they are loved and deserving of respect when they experience a life where they receive simple acts of love and respect on a regular, consistent basis. I don’t need to ‘get ready’ for that, learn something new, read a parenting book, schedule a ‘special outing’, or do anything out of the ordinary. I simply need to ‘be’ who I am already and choose to say, “Yes” to the countless offers each of my girls presents me each day to love and respect them with my time, energy, and focus.
Today is the day to BE the dad they need and I truly want them to have.