As Father’s Day approaches, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how my wife and I have prepared our daughter for adult life—especially during this tumultuous time. But as I reflect on what impact I’ve had on her life, recalling so many important events and milestones, I’ve realized just how many lessons I’ve learned from my daughter.
My daughter is 24 years old, an adult by societal standards, but she’s still my little girl.
Lessons From My Little Girl
The first lesson she taught was on the night she was born. Shortly after her birth, literally within the first 10 minutes, I found myself seated in a chair in the birthing room holding this new life and feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of protecting and providing for her—a feeling that continues to this day. I cheated. I unswaddled her (if that’s a word) because I thought she’d feel trapped or restricted by the tightly wrapped blanket they placed her in.
Ten fingers, ten toes. I looked at her tiny hands, amazed that they had creases and bends at all the right places, and thanked God for the complete work of her development. I’m still amazed at that completeness. My mind raced. I saw in that moment hundreds of variables about her future and started writing my design for that future. How she would grow. How she would be educated. What her personality would be like. Who she would associate with, like, date, and eventually marry. I worked it all out in my imagination and locked it in as a done deal. Of course, almost all of that was wrong. But it felt useful at the time.
Fast forward a few years. The next lesson she taught me had to do with her first injury. I remember the feeling of anguish over the wound she developed and the guilt I felt for “letting it happen.” It didn’t matter that I wasn’t there when it happened. She was in the care of our baby-sitter. But I learned that God had equipped her with amazing healing power in her body, baked in from the beginning—something we’d need to rely on innumerable times in the future. But God had it covered.
I remember the lesson of socialization she taught me when at age three she realized that in spite of my best efforts, the world we lived in defined her as a Black or African American girl, and that meant “different” in her environment. Claire, her best friend at that time, was fascinated with the texture of my daughter’s hair and the tone of her skin. Claire’s way of expressing this fascination was to constantly touch my daughter’s hair and skin. Finally, she mustered the courage to ask why her skin was different, meaning not the same as Claire’s. Something about her question made our daughter feel “different” in not a good way, and that caused pain. I have processed similar experiences myself, so I was somewhat prepared not to shelter her from the blows and bruises she would encounter because of the color of her skin. She continues to be the girl that people…white people…can talk to, ask questions, and feel comfortable with. It no longer causes her pain…just fatigue. She’s blessed with a thoughtful heart, a keen mind, patience, generosity and grace, but 21 years of this…with more to come… is tiring.
I learned the lesson of resilience from her. I felt anguish and turmoil from witnessing her disappointments, when she wasn’t included or invited, or she didn’t receive the recognition she had earned. But I saw her press on, continuing to use the grace and gifts God has blessed her with to run the race set before her and press on toward the prize. She is a winner and fights hard, but fairly, for all that she seeks.
I learned the lessons of self-worth and confidence from her when situations demand that she stand up for herself, and others, if things are not being handled correctly. She is not afraid to speak truth to power. Even now, others call upon her to be the spokesperson when they are not empowered, and she always responds. She expresses herself with poise and authority…even to her parents…she has a strong sense of justice.
“Being thankful gives me the perspective that the God who created my daughter and knows her future also selected me to be her dad.”
I learned the lesson of missed opportunities when I could have used countless car rides and trips to dance competitions to speak biblical truth to her, instead of worldly “truths” that won’t serve her nearly as well. I thank God that I have the opportunity to make up for those missed opportunities now. I value the phone calls I now have with her around some of the challenges that come her way. She has convinced me that she values my worldly wisdom derived from personal experiences, training, faith and God’s word.
It Starts With Thankfulness
There are hundreds of lessons I’ve learned from my little girl. These are the ones that I’ve contemplated recently during the times of reflection our state of affairs has afforded me.
I want to encourage dads, as well as men who are not biological dads, but have taken on this important role. You can truly affect the lives of children around you, take the time, pay attention to what you can learn from them. For me, it starts with thankfulness.
- Thank God for your family and for the awesome responsibility of fathering.
- Thank God for the resilience and the ability to heal that he has given us…physically, emotionally and spiritually.
- Thank God for His promises of justice and equality that are the derivatives of his love for us, even if and when opportunities are not evenly or fairly distributed.
- Thank God for not giving us the spirit of fear; but for giving the spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
- Thank God for reminding us that we are recipients of his grace…overcoming the enemy’s desire for us to feel weak.
- Thank God for second chances, and third and fourth…to get it right and the time and opportunities to do so.
Being thankful gives me the perspective that the God who created my daughter and knows her future also selected me to be her dad. When I think about everything my little girl has taught me, I will be the first to admit I never had it all figured out, but my heavenly Father does, and I can lock that in as a done deal.
Happy Father’s Day.