09 Jun 2014

For all the “ordinary, boring” dads, from your grateful daughters

I don’t know a daughter who has a perfect relationship with her dad.

But I don’t know any perfect people either.

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What I do know, is that we grow up through our ponytails, and skinned knees, prom dresses and first driving experiences the daughters of our fathers.

Fearing them, or their lack of approval, or loving every evening leaning into those broad shoulders and safe spaces encircled by the arms of a dad.

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The thing is, dads, it’s not the to do lists that we remember it’s the memories of what you said late one Sunday afternoon on the front porch steps while the boys were scootering up and down the side walk.

It’s not the five-point manifestos that make a dad, it’s the memories of every Monday and Tuesday and ordinary boring Thursday that mark us your daughters.

You might be surprised what we remember. Less likely the Disneyland moments and more often the conversations that happened over a cup of tea or a pretend beauty parlor session.

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The year after my mother died I couldn’t sleep. I would dread bedtime, dragging feet toward the inevitable. Empty hours stretched ahead of me and I couldn’t see my way toward the sunrise; the night was dark and dense and filled with loneliness.

I hated to be the only person awake in the house.

I remember sitting by my dad’s bedside and talking with him into the wee hours. Just rambling on and on about anything and nothing, but always punctuated by the regular question, “Dad, you’re still awake, right?”

And his heavy eyes would crack open in my direction and he’d sigh an exhausted “yes” and I’d keep on talking.

He and I have traveled miles since then.

They have not always been smooth.

They have been bumpy and hard with deep ruts and deeper misunderstandings over the years.

Physical distance can both complicate and help the healing and for years I lived an ocean away.

But I can close my eyes and smell his cologne waiting there at the end of every finish line of every race I ever ran in school.

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I can hear in my head all the fights we had, all the nights I felt misunderstood, and all the moments I wish we could take back.

But I can also taste cup after cup of hot sweet Rooibos Tea that he brought me in the morning after morning.

As well as the sweet bite of the sherry he poured me that night I came back inside after my first kiss.

He never said a word, just passed the cut glass crystal and smiled slow as we sat in the fading light together. My mom a million miles away in hospital and her daughter growing up into a woman on the sofa with the ripped brown pillows over a silent toast with her father.

The memories of what we did do together will always trump the lost ones of what we didn’t.

I remember my dad sneaking me into the crook of his arm to watch a few minutes of late television after he got home hours past my bedtime.

I can hear his long, slow, flattering wolf whistle as my 18 year old self stepped out in an insecure prom dress. And how nothing I accomplished ever surprised him.

The fights we had our overshadowed by the delight I know he took in me.

He said things I wish he could unsay. He said things I’m sure he wishes he could unsay. But parenting is not a full stop. it is a conversation.

It’s the long way home.

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So we keep talking and wallpapering over old hurts with new understanding.

How I explained to him that sometimes a daughter doesn’t need to be fixed, she just needs to be listened to.

And he listened.

Oh how I remember that he listened.

You won’t get it right all the time, dad. And we daughters, we sure know how to complicate things too. But we will see ourselves through your eyes – beautiful, or incompetent, brave or ordinary, wildly wonderful or misunderstood.

We will wear your approval layered over everything else, even that outfit that raises eyebrows. And the more we remember how much you love us, the less likely we are to wear it again.

I’ve done stupid things and still you’ve only been a phone call away. No matter which side of the Atlantic I’m living at the time.

I remember.

I remember.

I remember your voice crackly over the long distance call – you in the distant far veld of South Africa, me in the labor and delivery ward in Virginia. I remember how I couldn’t bear down and give birth to my daughter until I’d heard the voice of my father. Me his first daughter.

I remember how you make me brave.

How we make each other better.

This being someone’s daughter. And someone’s father.

And how brightly it’s reflected in the setting sun on the front stoop as my three year old girl looks her daddy straight in the eye.

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And no matter how bumpy their ride, I know, “Baby, you got this.”

Because your daddy’s got you.

 

Related resources:

Click here for the staggeringly moving Father’s Day video – You Got This – by Journey Box Media (the same guys who made my book trailer) – for every one of the dads out there who helped their kids learn the long, patient, every day, boring way that they’ve got this. Five Star View.

My all-time, hands down favorite read about fathers and daughters? This one by Meg Meeker, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know

My own story of losing my mother and growing up with only my dad along for the ride.

Comments

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  1. 1

    Lisa-Jo, this was priceless. Brought back so many sweet memories of my of my own daddy–my hero–who I lost 2 years ago to early onset Alzheimer’s. Been thinking about him so much lately, with Father’s Day being so close, and am so thankful for his faithful love and care for me over the years…how he never gave up on me, was my biggest fan and the one I ran to when I needed comfort. He wasn’t the perfect dad, he made mistakes and regretted them so; but to me, his life was the gospel, the invitation to Jesus that I so desperately needed. He lived out his love for Jesus–Jesus with skin on, really–and was the best friend a girl could ever have.

  2. 2

    Those pictures are just about the most precious thing I have ever seen! Our son is expecting our first granddaughter in 2 months and I cannot wait to watch him in those moments!

    Just beautiful…….

  3. 3

    Your words and that video…had me in tears! Yesterday, my sister and brother-in-law became parents. I’m so excited to watch my brother-in-law in his journey of fatherhood…it’ll be an incredible journey, and I know he’ll be a great dad. After all, my own father is there to help him along the way, and he’s a pretty awesome dad!

  4. 4

    Beautiful words about fatherhood. It conjured up wonderful memories of those talks and words of advice I most certainly remember my father giving to me. And yeah, I agree, they trump Disney.

  5. 5

    For all of those out there with “ordinary, boring dads,” fall on your knees and praise God! As a daughter abandoned emotionally and physically by her father, there are hurts you never want to know. Insecurities that topple upon you. Never once hearing those special, sweet, caring “daddy” words really does put a knife in your heart. He was less than 5 miles away, knew where I was, saw me once a year… It has shaped so much about me as a person. We all have emotional wounds. None better than another. But I SO envy “girls and their daddies.”

  6. 6

    Lisa-jo- as ALWAYS….you move me to tears….and they are tears of joy at remembered occasions and not so good occasions with my own father. I LOVE how you write…its as if it came from ME…these thoughts and ideas that flow from head and heart to fingers to paper or computer screen. THANK you I hope you continue to succeed in having your voice heard because it IS so much like A LOT of us….more than you realize.

  7. 7

    This is so beautiful!!! It felt very healing to remember my dad in positive ways. Even if our parents were far from perfect parents, they gave us the right amount of love and pain to catapult us into our highest potential. It’s something we get to carry forever.

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