You see, every little girl-and every little boy-is asking one fundamental question. But they are very different questions, depending on whether you are a little boy or a little girl. Little boys want to know, Do I have what it takes? …He was made in the image of a warrior God. Nearly all a man does is fueled by his search for validation…
Little girls want to know, Am I lovely? …When I was a girl of maybe five years old, I remember standing on top of the coffee table in my grandparents’ living room and signing my heart out. I wanted to capture attention-especially my father’s attention. I wanted to be captivating. We all did. But for most of us, the answer to our Question when we were young was “No, there is nothing captivating about you.” Get off the coffee table. Nearly all a woman does in her adult life is fueled by her longing to be delighted in, her longing to be beautiful, to be irreplaceable, to have her Question answered, Yes!...
-Stasi Eldredge, taken from Captivating-
After having three boys, I naturally started to panic upon finding out that our fourth was a girl. I immediately began reading as much as I could find about parenting a little woman. Not having a mother in my own life, I was (and admittedly still am) a nervous wreck.
I find that my boys indeed do challenge themselves and each other on a daily, if not hourly, basis to see who can be the best. It doesn’t matter what the game is: lego building, sword fighting, running faster, jumping higher, eating quicker…everything is a challenge. And when one wins the challenge, they make sure my husband and I validate them! I’m amazed at how quickly my knights in plastic armor, clad with sword and shield, can go from fierce battle mode to a sweet, adoring voice asking, “Did you see me mommy?” When I show how proud I am of their grand feat, they beam with pride and love.
But how will we show our little girl this same kind of love? I have always felt inadequate as a mother because I lacked that matriarchal example of love, kindness, and faithfulness in my life. But, as I contemplated mothering my own little girl, I realized that I am not without a rich source of love in my life. After all, I am a daughter, just like she is, and I have a dad who has shown me more love than I could ever ask for. Time and time again, he has not failed to answer me “Yes! You, daughter, are captivating.” He would not tell me to get off the coffee table…he’d probably join in the singing! And upon this recent realization, just like that, many years of feeling rejected, frustrated, and unloved by my natural mother has been overshadowed by my father’s love and dedication to me.
I say this because I realize that it in parenting a little girl, it is imperative that we show her that we see her, we enjoy her, and are dedicated to her no matter what. My father’s faithfulness, time, and attention has sowed and produced more in my life than anything or anyone else. My dad will be the first one to tell you he’s not perfect. Nobody is. But my daughter’s heart never needed perfection…just acceptance and faithfulness. I needed to know that nothing would make him stop loving me. Despite an 8 hour, every other weekend visitation schedule, an overbearing ex-wife who lived to divide us, and many other of life’s concerns, my dad was the only constant throughout my life. When people hear what I lived through, one of their first comments is “How did you turn out the way you did?” I say by the grace of God…I also realize that it is through the loving kindness of my father.
He did not tuck me in every night or make me breakfast in the morning, a fact that deeply upsets him to this day. What he didn’t realize is that he never needed to love me that way. He did other things to show me, instead of tell me, how much I meant to him. He was never a moment late in picking me up when it was our time to be together. He never missed a day. He taught me how to ride a bike, how to dive, how to swim every swimming stroke, how to ice skate, and how to play softball. He was the only one who showed me that life could be fun. He was the one who removed me from my volatile home every other week to show me that there was joy in the real world. He attended every extracurricular activity…he even ran the time clock and buzzer at my jr. high basketball games. He knew every one of my friends and most of their parents. He worked hard to put me through private school. He taught me how to drive (and a stick shift at that!)…he endured my many frustrations and tears when I just couldn’t get first gear! He took me to my first concert, taught me how to sing harmonies, and always challenged me to think through my opinions before I voiced them. He was there when I graduated from high school, college, and law school.
My dad is incredibly intelligent…really guys. He was on Jeopardy when I was a little girl. I used to cringe every time someone found that out, but now I’m proud of my trivia-loving dad. My dad loves baseball…I will never be able to walk into a ballpark, smell the peanuts and crackerjacks, or hear “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” without thinking of him. My dad loves playing games, a hobby he inadvertently has passed down to me. He loves reading and the theater, other hobbies he has bestowed upon me. And, if you know him, you know he is the king of puns. Many an eye-roll occur when he gets rolling (no pun intended).
I love that my dad is still in my life. He is always one of the first ones at the hospital when I have a baby. He took on babysitting my three little ones when I went back to work for a few months. If I’m in a pinch, I know I can call on him. But what I love absolutely the most is our talks. We have this special bond. I can talk to him about anything. Our favorite topics are usually politics and religion…taboo subjects among most, but not for us. I realize that many of my views, convictions, and revelations are shared with my dad. He has passed on a spiritual heritage to me that I treasure more than anything he could physically give me.
I know our little girl is going to be okay. I know we’ll make mistakes. But I am confident that she will feel very much the same way about her daddy as I do about mine…after all, I married a man who is very much like my dad. He is gentle, kind, quirky, intelligent, and compassionate. Most of all, my husband finds his kids captivating just like my dad does with me. He is never too busy to spend time or attention with the tiny loves of his life.
I am grateful for a dad who never once made me feel like I was work. I never felt the stress of the relational issues that occurred in our family when I was with him. I felt delighted in, irreplaceable, and loved. His constant presence in my life has produced much of who I am today. I am a lucky girl to have a dad like him…and my daughter is lucky to have her daddy, and her papa.