Dad, How Do I Look?

Julia

Our youngest, age 9, decided it was time to get her first real haircut, and by real I mean having it trimmed several inches shorter than ever before and having it cut by her mother and sisters’ real (and outstanding) beautician at a real beauty shop here in town.

When she came home tonight I was genuinely excited for her. It is beautiful and is the kind of haircut that, if she were a famous actress, would be named after her because it matches perfectly who I know her to be.

At first, she was so proud of the risk that she took to do such a thing (I now realize that this is a risk because I have lived through the experience of such risks with my wife and two older daughters…and, believe me, such events have their risks).

A few hours later, though, all that lion-hearted certainty seemed to melt into a puddle of shadowy uncertainty. It was a kind of “what-have-I-done” look that began to slowly form across her sweet face. An anxious worry began to nip at her heels.

And for some reason, she bypassed every girl in our house on this particular evening to come find me. I was in our bedroom reading a new book when I caught a glimpse of her quietly slip into our closet and peer into the floor length mirror just inside its doorway.

I could sense the tension and waited. She gloomily whispered, “Dad, how do I look?  Does it make me look like a boy?”

These are the questions that we fathers and brothers and boyfriends and sons find risky…and if we do not find them risky we will find ourselves making light of things that are not necessarily “light.”  Knowing the difference between an important question and a simple question takes three things:  answering poorly, learning to answer rightly, and a good woman to teach you the difference.

My answer to our youngest daughter that night was simple to her, and complex to me.  I told her I thought it was beautiful and that she clearly still looked like a girl, but to come sit with me and “let me look at it up close.”  I pretended to measure and then I described the color and shape and style.  We laughed and she remembered several female book and television characters who reveled in their short hair and clearly looked like girls. It was a conversation that lasted no more than 4 or 5 minutes, but it seemed to be what she needed for now.

I know from experience that there will be so many moments among the years ahead when the questions will grow deep and profound and difficult, but I’m not sure they will be any more or less deep or profound or difficult either, just different.

And so it is with that phrase – “Dad, how do I look?” – the question means less than the answers to which it leads.

The Rise of Responsibility

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”  – Abigail Van Buren

Roses

  I am the father of three children, so whenever I can learn just about anything from other fathers – sign me up.  Two brief occurrences this past week helped me and reminded me of the good things that we can do for our kids, things that will last.  Here’s what I saw:

  We were at my wife’s office Christmas party over the weekend and, being in my early 40’s this still surprises me, I was the oldest guy there.  Some who were they were newly married while others had several small children of toddler or early preschool age and I happened to be standing next to a young man I had not yet met.  His name was Mario and we struck up a friendly conversation about food and Christmas and the weather…and then he began to tell him about his children.  And not only did he have children,but all three were daughters, and all three under the age of six.  He shared some pictures from his phone and then shared some funny stories about them, but then he shared his love for them.  He told me about the daddy/daughter dates that he enjoyed him and said, “I do these because I want them to know what a date should be like, what to expect and the great responsibility of the boy who is taking them on a date.”  This is a father who is teaching his daughters the art of caring for them and loving them and honoring them.

  The second great father lesson occurred in a short Facebook post by the Erways, friends of ours who were celebrating their only daughter’s debut in The Nutcracker ballet in Lawton.  It was a simple picture of the bouquet of roses (above) that were delivered to her that evening, but the picture was profound in that those flowers came from the heart of a dad to his daughter.  This is a father who is teaching his daughter the art of caring for her and loving her and honoring her.

  As the father of three daughters, I know one thing for certain.  Like these great dads that I observed this week, I want my girls to understand the responsibility they have to be respected and honored by the boys who cross their paths.

  As fathers, we are the first example and we are rising to the responsibility.