Being a dad to a little girl should be listed as one of the hardest jobs ever. That’s not to say that it isn’t the most amazing thing, but it is also extremely difficult. You know that most likely your little girl will always hold you special in her heart as the term ‘daddy’s little girl’ is usually dead on. But with that, great parenthood comes with great responsibility.
As a father, you are like a sculptor and she is the clay. You actions throughout her life help mold her into the woman she will become. And with every good dad, you can become overwhelmed with that idea. I know I am. I hope so much to bring her up in a house filled with love and laughter and to give her a good role model for what a man should be. I hope to impart as much ‘sage fatherly advice’ on her as the years go on.
One afternoon my daughter and I went to the park as we normally do. We spent about an hour cycling between the swings and the slide. This particular park had a larger play area that you could run through to get to different slides. She, being 3 and a half is always at full throttle, whether it’s 6am or 8pm, so she was running with careless abandon. After her multiple trips up and down, she ran to head back up to the slide like normal, but that’s when it happened. Her little foot kind of slipped from under her. She lost her balance and fell backward off the equipment. The drop is only about a foot from where she was, but from my vantage point it looked like a thousand feet.
It’s true that they say time slows down in an accident. Watching her fall reminded me of that feeling in a dream where you try to run but your feet are stuck. I ran to catch her and break her fall, but I was too slow. She hit the ground on her back and laid in the tanbark for a moment before starting to cry. I scooped her up in my arms and pressed her against my chest as she sobbed into my shoulder. I assessed her to see if anything had broken or she had any big cuts. There was nothing but a few small scrapes on her elbows. But she started saying that her arm hurt really bad. My heart was absolutely racing as I carried her back to the car, placed her gently in her car-seat, and took her home. She was able to move her arm ok but she was shaken up (as was I), so when we got home I set her up a little nest on the couch, turned on her favorite show, and got her a snack.
Pretty soon she was laughing and smiling and cuddling ‘Bear’. And I sat at the dinner table and watched her. And the feeling of overwhelming disappointment and sadness washed over me. I should have caught her, I should have moved faster, I can’t believe I let her fall. The picture of that just kept playing over and over in my mind. It may have been the first time that they thought really hit me that I won’t always do the right thing as a parent. It’s obvious that no one can be perfect, but that image of her falling really brought it home.
No matter how hard I try to be the best dad, I won’t always be able to live up to that title. I’m going to let her down at some point. I’m going to fail every once and awhile. Some days she may hate me.
But the things I can do will outweigh the times I mess up. I hope that when she grows up she can remember the things dad did right. I hope she’ll always know that no matter how exhausted or overworked I was, I always take time to be silly with her. I hope she’ll remember the times I took her on daddy-daughter trips. The times I’ve held her or took her mind off of the booboo I fixed. I hope she knows how loved she is. I always make a point to hug her and kiss her and tell her I love her every day. I read her a book 3 times in row if she really wants to hear it again. I dance with her and spin her around. The tickle monster shows up to take the tears the away. I’m a certified ‘monster hunter’ at night and have physically kicked the monsters to the moon before bed. I get her dressed in the morning and have gotten a little bit better at matching clothing (though putting hair ties in is still a mystery to me). I’ve played Rapunzel with her (I always get to play ‘Mother’). I’ve been a horse, a trampoline, and many other iterations of those things. I discipline her when she needs it but still hug her and tell her I love her afterwards.
Just recently I had another big moment at the park. This one didn’t involve any falls or cuts. I have a hard time sometimes giving her some space. I can be overprotective to a fault sometimes. It’s hard not to. She’s my little girl, I don’t want to give her up. This day at the park another little girl was there and while at one of the pieces of equipment, they started playing together. They were pretending to be at a restaurant and running back and forth. I stood by the slide way back from them, and watched them play. They were having a blast and in their own world. As she was running over to the slide, she stopped quickly to come give me a hug and tell me to watch her. And it realized something yet again (parenting is all about epiphanies).
She’s growing up. And it is going too fast. She’s no longer the little baby that would fall asleep in my arms as I rocked her. Soon she’s not going to want me to be around all the time. She’s going to make her friends and want to go off without dad around. And I know that someday I’m going to have to let her go. To go out and make her own way in the world. I know I’ll be proud of her on that day, but I also know it’s part of the pain and responsibility that is a double edged sword. Our relationship will mature and grow as she gets older, but these times will not come back to how it is now. But I hope she always knows that dad will always be there for her. I’ll always be there for her to talk to, to laugh with, to cry on my shoulder when she needs. I may not catch her every time, but I’ll always be there to scoop her up, pull her close, and tell her I love her.