First disclaimer: I'm obviously not a woman nor do I have any advanced degree is psychology. As a matter of fact, I don't pretend to understand women at all. However, I've done my best to listen and learn so I can hear what Kendra and Layla need.
Second disclaimer: I'm not perfect. This post and the contents are not meant to be boastful or prideful. I have a long way to go when it comes to being the best husband and father I can be. This is just my attempt to capture my feelings and share them.
Am I lovely?
That is the question all girls ask throughout their life. Maybe not verbally, but deep down they have this burning question.
Who answers when a woman asks, "Am I lovely?" The father and eventually the husband do every day. Sadly, the answer is not always "yes, you are lovely". None the less girls DO get an answer... Loudly. There is no soft, half-hearted, sheepish response either. Even saying nothing at all is interpreted as a "NO!". All responses are thundering in volume and as bright as the sun for the girl who receives them. The question and response are unavoidable. They are life changing. They are by God's design.
Today I answer that question for the two women in my life, Layla and Kendra. I am accountable to do everything in my power for their emotional well being. Their self esteem is partially a result of my response.
Kendra and I are always working on our relationship and as this topic pertains to her, I'll leave that for another time. This post is dedicated to Layla and my fatherly responsibility to her. Among the many components of fatherhood, helping her realize the truth of her loveliness is always right in the front of my brain and on the tip of my tongue. She'll carry the question throughout life and at some point in the not-so-distant future her question will be directed at her husband.
When a father gives away a bride at a wedding the minister says, "Who gives this woman to be wedded to this man?" Why does the father answer by saying, "her mother and I"? There is probably some historical, biblical, rational reason behind the way it is done, but I have my own theory. Now that I have a daughter it all makes sense. At that moment in the ceremony the father is "giving" the responsibility of answering the question, "am I lovely?" The transition of responsibility happens there at the alter. From then on the girl looks to the husband to answer the question.
BUT, between now and the time Layla gets married the responsibility is mine. She can't even say the word lovely yet, but I see her ask me every day, "am I lovely?" by the way she acts and looks to me for the answer.
Every single day since she was born I tell her she is lovely. I instinctively call her "lovely Layla" during the day and I hope that never changes. Even the first words of my home-made, ultra-cheesy bed time song for her begins with, "Lovely Layla, lovely Layla, yes you are..." And more importantly, I do my best to show her. Words without actions are more harmful than no words at all. I give her my full attention, my best hugs and kisses and cuddles, and look for ways to fill her heart to overflowing with a resounding tsunami answer of, "yes! Yes, you are lovely".
Several weeks ago my sister said something that really struck me. She said some of the things she cherishes most from her childhood are pictures of her with dad. She encouraged me to take more of those and I took it to heart. Last week I woke up one night
with one of those "Aha!" moments and I finally figured out what song to use as the background for the creation I had in mind. Then I sifted through 4,152 pictures (yes, i've taken 4,152 pictures in the past 14 months) to find the best pictures of Layla and I together.
Here is Loudon Wainwright III singing his song titled, "Daughter" as the background to my picture slideshow video. I want to make sure Layla is absolutely certain of daddy's answer... Yes, you are lovely, Layla.
See you soon.