When I was little, I was fortunate enough to have a mom and a dad and two little sisters and a goldfish named Speck and my own room smothered in pink things.
My dad was in the military and one place I remember living was Hampton, Virginia, where our apartment was choice, the shag carpet was green, and the backyard was the size of my pinky toe. I was allowed to watch nickelodeon and VH-1. Everyday I walked to the pool area and bought myself an RC Cola from the vending machine, with 2 dimes and a nickel. My 7-year old self straight owned that neighborhood, riding around with my purple radio strapped to the front of my purple bike, lookin’ right in my side-ponytail and jams.
I can’t even tell you how cool I was back then.
Every night my mom made dinner and dessert. She washed our hair in the bathtub and made us brush our teeth and she laid the hammer down whenever the situation called for it. 3 books before bed, a kiss, a hug, and a “leave the closet light on please!” and that was our bedtime. Pretty sure my mom said a million wise and wonderful words over the course of a day in the life of me, but the thing that i remember the most are my dad’s hugs.
They weren’t ordinary hugs–they were huge and strong and gentle all at once. My dad could never hug me silently either–there was always the sound of a hug–it goes like this: “ooooooo WAH!”
To this day I make that sound–at least in my head if not out loud–whenever I hug anyone.
I remember every good thing my dad said to me. He was the first man to ever tell me I was pretty, or smart, or funny, and kind. He held me up and let me walk on the ceiling. He pushed me on the swings and made repairs to the neighborhood playground when I ripped my clothes on a loose nail. He coached soccer and softball and came to every single one of my cross country meets; I always got my second wind whenever I saw him running along the side lines cheering for me.
I wasn’t always the best daughter, but I can’t think of one moment when he wasn’t the best dad.
These days I watch my own daughters; I feed them food and help them with homework. I wash their hair in the bathtub and read them books at bedtime and I tuck them in, and I rest in knowing that the things I do for them are necessary, and the things I teach them are important…
But I let Caleb rock in a way that only a father can. He tells my girls that they are pretty. That they are beautiful, and smart, and kind. He reads the bible to them. He coaches soccer, and softball, and teaches them how to ride bikes, and pushes them on the swings. He hugs them strong and gentle. He encourages them and believes in them and delights in them. He loves them so fiercely and it shows.
It breaks my heart to think of the children who do not have this. Every girl needs a daddy to tell her she’s pretty, everyday.
Fathers of daughters and sons, it’s time to get awesome. You play such an influential role in the lives of your children–make it a positive one. Everything you say or don’t say to your kids is important, and they’ll hold onto all of it forever, from bible verses to the ridiculous hug sounds you are compelled to make.
(And mom, don’t worry, because I have you to thank for my habit of patting people’s backs three times exactly during all hugs.)