Monday, September 26, 2011

Daddy's Girl

I was standing over the sink in the restaurant bathroom contemplating how I was going to tell my father I was pregnant.   I had tried other times that evening - seeing the window of opportunity open and close before I could get the words out.  My heart was pounding and my legs felt shaky.  Max knocked on the bathroom door and asked if I was okay.    I walked out to the corridor that was dimly lit between the kitchen and the place where they stacked the high chairs. 

"What are you waiting for?  Just tell him." Max said matter of factly.    
"It's not that easy, what is my dad going to think? I mean I just graduated from college." I said nervously.   
"Really?" Max replied, "Kel, it's not like your 19 and  he's going to throw you out of the house."
"Okay, but the fact that I'm pregnant means that I've probably had sex," I countered. 
"Probably?!  We've been married for three years and live in our own place.  I think the idea that we might have done it might have crossed his mind by now!" Max said somewhat exasperated. 
"Stop it, my dad would never think that," I said, feeling queasier by the minute.  
"Your dad has five kids, I think he gets how it works," Max said trying to comfort me.  
"Okay, that is just so wrong and it's not helping,"  I said somewhat weirded out. 
"Well, there's still dessert and coffee, if you don't tell him by then I'll just slip a picture of the ultrasound and wink.  Is that how you want to tell him?"  Max looked into my eyes trying to sense why I was so apprehensive about sharing such wonderful news. 

"You're right.   Get back to the table and I'll be there in a minute, I just need to put my game face on."  I kissed and sent him back to Mom and Dad.  A woman with a small infant passed me just as I was going back into the dining room.  The baby cooed and smiled at me over his mother's shoulder letting me know that I needed to start this rite of passage. 

Looking your father in the eye and telling him you're pregnant is the moment in a women's life when she grows from being daddy's little girl into a woman.   Hopefully before this moment,  she has taken control of her life, stood up for herself and taken a few of the lumps and bruises from the curve balls in life.  Hopefully, she's found another man in her life whose job is to be there for her when she comes home and needs someone to hold her and tell her it's going to be alright.  From this moment on, your relationship with your dad will never be the same.  Gone are the days when my little sister and I could sit on our dad's lap,  hug his neck and say "Aren't you glad we married you?"     

I think the transition of girls growing up is especially hard on Dads.   To have a young girl idealize you and see you as her hero and the guy she can count can make even a mild mannered guy feel like Superman.   As the protector of his  daughter, he would take on a 1,000 Lex Luthers then to see her hurt by a mere boy.  According to the book Father, Family Protector, "A father goes out of his way to size up the young man his daughter is going out with. He insists on meeting him--to look him in the eye and intuitively size up his intentions and his worth. An unspoken message seems to pass between them: 'She's my daughter. Treat her nicely, kid, or else'...."    I see this circle playing out now with my own husband as our 15 year old daughter takes those first tentative steps into dating.   The idea that his little girl is growing up is not sitting well with him.   They have a special bond and one that he's not ready to share just yet.   But the reality is that she is just starting the road of what will hopefully be many dates and young men before she finds the person that she'll want to spend the rest of her life with.  After a few hits and misses (there will be hits and misses before the Miss becomes Mrs.), our daughters figure out for themselves who their Mr. Right is.  

My father took the news of yet another grandchild very well (at that point between the other four siblings, they already had 12 grand children).   My mother was overjoyed and my dad gave me a big kiss and a hug.  When I did look my dad in the eye, he did not yell, "You harlot, you've only been married three years and you're pregnant already?!  I smite thee, I smite thee to the bordello of hell where you belong!"  No, he was beaming, happy and even gave Max a hug as well.    Sure, I knew I'd always be his daughter, but by becoming a mother, I acknowledged that I was becoming a parent and joining their elite club.   Before long, he was bringing all sorts of fruits, vegetables and other wholesome foods for his daughter plus one.    He was still taking care of me, but with the help of Max who is a personal chef.  I was lucky that they could work together like that - from one  senior superhero to another superhero in training who was about to discover that amazing journey of fatherhood and how a little girl's smile is a good kind of kryptonite. 

In an ideal world, your father is the one man a girl can count on.  He's the guy that helps set your self worth.    If it's a good relationship, he's your Superman - the one guy who would leap a building in a single bound to keep you safe - to do anything for his little princess.   He's the guy that all the other men in your daughter's life need to measure up to.   If they're smart, they'll bring their capes.   

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