This past Father’s Day I reflected on my over two decade journey as a father.
All the ups and downs, ins and outs, during these 20 plus years.
I decided to put in a sentence what I have tried to live out with my kids:
Being a father is one of the most important things I will ever do.
Healthy fathering (whether biological, adoptive, etc.) brings depth, definition, and plants purpose in a child’s soul.
In my case, because I have FOUR daughters (yes, you read that right!) I have endeavored to be the first man that they ever fall in love with.
The irony of making that vision come to life, is that aside from intentionality (Daddy/Daughter dates, regular conversations, etc.) sometimes the most impactful times occur in the most inopportune moments.
It is in the unscripted, improvisational, often inconvenient slices of life that can be the most memorable.
Let me tell you about one of my favorite unscripted stories:
My oldest daughter was about 8 or so years old.
We had just come back from her dance practice and it was a school night. I pulled into the garage and was planning on hustling her up to bath and bed so she wouldn’t be too sleepy in the morning.
I started to get out of the car and then noticed she wasn’t moving.
I looked back at her in the passenger seat and was just about to scold her for not getting her little bottom out of the car and into the house.
But then I noticed her eyes.
You see, my oldest has these big beautiful brown saucer sized eyes with long curly eye lashes.
They are truly works of divine art.
They are mesmerizing and can almost put you in a trance.
And when she was little her eyes seemed even bigger as the rest of her body scrambled to catch up.
Now, those big beautiful eyes were brimming with tears.
“Hey…what’s wrong baby girl?”
She struggled to find her voice while I patiently waited.
My heart was racing: What was she going to say? What was wrong?
“It’s school. There are these boys at school.”
“What is happening at school?”
“Boys are making fun of me.”
“They say I’m ugly. These say my lips are too big, my eyes are huge, and that I have an ugly face.”
“Yes. That is what they say.”
“Now, what are the names of these boys?”
Now right then, for maybe 3 seconds (or maybe 10 seconds!) I wasn’t thinking rationally.
I imagined myself going over to the elementary school and grabbing these boys by their shirt collars and wringing their mean little 3rd grade necks.
Yes, yes I know, I know. It’s ridiculous.
But I am just being real with you.
I wanted to beat up a bunch of 3rd graders as a grown man.
I admit it.
Love can make you crazy sometimes.
Her trembling lip and quiet sobbing snapped me out of my wild thoughts.
And then it happened.
One of those freestyle inspirations that come to you all at once and you are making it all up in the moment.
It’s like wandering but you knowing exactly where to go.
“Well little girl, you know what the problem is? “
Those damp gigantic brown saucer eyes looked up at me.
“I don’t know, dad. What is the problem?”
“Well the problem is you.”
Now her little face contorted and her big brown eyes looked confused.
“Me? I’m the problem?”, they seemed to say.
“Yes. You heard me. The problem is you. The problem is you are looking at yourself through their eyes and you are not looking at yourself through your Daddy’s eyes. Let me tell you what your Daddy sees..”
I leaned in to look her directly into her face.
Nose to nose.
Eye to eye.
“When your Daddy looks at you he sees power. He sees strength. He sees creativity and intelligence. He sees laughter and fun. He sees love and compassion. He sees agility and joy. He sees amazing. He sees smart. He sees sunshine. He sees a blindingly bright future. That is what your Daddy sees. And what your Daddy sees is beautiful.”
And at that point, my little lady’s eyes weren’t the only ones brimming with tears.
In fact, my eyes were streaming with tears.
I unbuckled my seat belt, reached across the vehicle and held her in a tight embrace.
And we wept together.
Right there in the garage after dance class on a school night.
I will never ever forget that moment.
And I pray she never does either.
As parents, and fathers in particular, let’s take advantage of the unscripted moments that come suddenly.
Because some of the moments that seem forgettable on the surface can become unforgettable in a blink. Let’s make sure we are paying attention.