I was in college before I realized I had never called someone "Dad." I was listening to a friend tell me that she and her dad were going out for dinner, and for the first time I wondered to myself what it would be like to have a dad. I have never said that word in relation to another person--ever-- and for a brief moment I found myself longing for that connection.
I am the proud daughter of a single mother and I have a very loving family. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when my mom worked her second serving job to keep food on the table and a roof over my and my brother’s heads. We didn't want for anything. We played sports, went on class trips, and always had new school clothes. For that, I will always be grateful. I never look back on those times and feel like I was lacking because those times were so sweet.
The closest thing I had to a dad was my wonderful grandfather. I knew my grandpa loved me dearly. He taught me a bunch of stuff about life, construction projects, and we watched the Grand Ol' Opry every Saturday night; it was our thing. He was amazing--kind, smart, funny, strong, and full of attitude. I wouldn't trade my time with him for anything. But sadly, he passed away when I was in 8th grade. I'm 29 now, which means there has been a lot of life without him and many life situations where I would have loved his advice. I would love to be reassured he was proud of my choices and where I have ended up, but I don't get those words. I just have to believe in my heart that he would be proud of the woman I ended up becoming--and in a lot of ways of whom I am still transforming into. I am still sorting out how very blessed I was to have this relationship. I know it's special. I know it was needed. But I don't know if I have the words to describe it right now.
I often have said "I don't need a dad." If we're being honest, the idea of a dad has always creeped me out. I don't have a dad and most of the things you see on TV and in movies doesn’t paint men in a good light. They are angry, or incompetent, or worse, portrayed as another "child" who can’t be trusted with his own kids. So I always thought "Phew! I lucked out on that one!" because I wasn't subjected to a man who encompassed all of these portrayals. So, imagine a woman with these sentiments having a sweet little baby and mama bear instincts. I know what it means to be a mom (THANKS MOM!) and I have to TRUST her dad to be a good dad. A good person. A person who loves this baby as much as I do. Whoa. That's a foundation shaker. (side note: Bryan is the great person that I decided to marry, so obviously he isn't the way I believed men to be, but still it was hard to remember at first. Thanks, postpartum hormones.)
To say that dads aren't important is a far cry from the truth. But, how do the "fatherless" know the importance of a father? Well simply, because of my daughter.
I have watched my husband's journey of fatherhood and it has been amazingly beautiful. He loves his daughter more than I would have ever expected. He loves her in a way that surprises me, because I didn't know that men loved their children. But more importantly, I see the way she looks at her dad. I see the way her eyes fill with love and excitement when he comes home. I see how she picks up a wrench and tells him how strong and capable she is because she wants him to be proud of her.
Because of this, I want my daughter to know her dad. I want her to go out on daddy-daughter dates to dances, and movies, and lunch. I want her to spend time with him when he's tinkering in the garage. To find time to get to know one another's hearts and feelings about the world and the stuff going on in it. There may be a time when she can't talk to mama, but she'll have her dad. There may be a time when her father's reassurance may be the only thing that calms her heart. A relationship may fail, an exam may be brutal, or she can't decide what she wants to pursue in college--or if she even wants to go! I want her dad to be someone she can lean on. Luckily, her dad wants to be that, too.
In a time where dads are portrayed in every movie or in social media as incompetent caretakers, unintelligent, and seemingly unnecessary...I think it's important to say how very NECESSARY dads are. So this Father's Day, I want to give a BIG shout out to all the dads out there. To the dads who know that the title comes with more than making a baby; to the up with the late night bottle feedings, soiled diaper changing, teaching your daughter how to use a wrench on a car, teaching your boy about relationships, dads. To the dads who care about the image those tiny little eyes are reflecting back at them: THANK YOU. You are a gift. And truly, your daughters need you.