Being Daddy

*I pulled this from a “remnant of the past box” while settling into our new home. This was written about 20 years ago, officially as assignment #5 for English 371. One of my favorite, and most inspiring SFU professors Janet Giltrow even gave me a generous grade, but more importantly a comment that’s always been with me: “a rich moving expression of sentiment that is not sentimental  – but contemplative.”

                               Giant steps, try those bunny hops

                               stop, stare, think of what?

                               Birdies seen and heard

                               fly away, just like thoughts

                               Run, toddle, sway a little

                               stoop, bend, reach out for what?

                               Plucking buttercups, yellow and bright

                               blow away in the breeze

                               just like thoughts

Dear Paige,

PaigeThere are so many things to write about, but few are as engaging and entertaining as you my little girl. You’re almost two, and I often wonder if the time has gone by as quickly for you as it has for me – we’ll probably never know, and it probably doesn’t matter.

It’s been said a man falls in love twice in his life, first with his wife, and then with his little girl. There is a shred of truth here, except every new day I see your smile, and hear “Daddy”, I fall in love all over again.

As you continue to grow you’ll see your pictures and hear your stories – fun with different food group times; bubbles and bath times; learning to crawl, walk, and talk times; up at 3AM times; temper tantrum times; uncontrollable giggle times; Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie, Uncle and Cousin times; kitty, puppy, and car ride times; and of course a lot of Mommy, Daddy and Paige times.

No doubt one day you’ll say spare me the pictures, spare me the stories, spare me the lectures, and Daddy will become Dad, and with that changing sign will come a whole new set of meanings.

Change is inevitable, unavoidable, constant. Because I’ve had more than two years to really think about being a Daddy (remember, for 9 months you were the little alien inside Mom; during that unforgettable pregnancy we thought about parenthood a lot) there are two essential things I hope change will not erode – the love of listening to you, and the love of giving you time. I hope this letter can be a reminder to each of us of the why being Daddy is forever meaningful.

Listening is about hearing, and thus understanding. Listening is about being active  not passive. Learning to distinguish your different cries was a big step. There was the feed me, change me, burp me. hold me, and let me sleep cires. Feeding a wet baby didn’t stop the crying. Changing a dry but tired baby didn’t cut it either. From your first day home, we forged an understanding about meeting those needs – you cried and we listened. Listening and responding to the cry of the moment not only makes baby happy, but makes me feels good about being a better Daddy.

Of course you’re not simply a crying machine wanting to be fed, burped, changed, or put to bed. Listening to your laughs, giggles, “screams and squeals” of wonderment also get’s a response… laughs and a sense of wonderment right back at you. We always talk, there’s no time for goo-goo gaa-gaa babble, because tuning you out seems to guarantee you’ll tune me out.

From your first words, the flood-gates open to the world of language. Language is our love affair. Paige says “there he is, Barney, Big Birt, kitty, puppy, care rite, all done, up pease… ” and seemingly every single word you know pours out – without pause. Everything is said with the greatest intent, attention, and meaning; my listening, translating, and encouraging seems to validate all of your hard work. I just say “tell me a story”, “sing me a song”, “be a chatter-box”, now you amaze me and at twenty three months I hear, “ABCDFHIJMPOUXW… 12345679…” not always in perfect order, but always fun to hear. I firmly beleive listening encourages speech, but most of all, I hope the ability to communicate. Active listening may result in a few more conversations, instead of the “spare me the lecture” sentiment.

By listening to you and hearing what’s important to you, I can make it important to me. By spending time with you in your world makes being Daddy more meaningful and more significant. For Daddy to have real meaning, Daddy needs to be a presence. It’s not always what I do, or what I want that gives my life reason and purpose. Getting down on the floor and coloring, or going for an imaginary “car rite” to see the “moo’s”, or reading stories, or just trying to see the world from where you see it, gives me all the meaning I need – it also reminds me of the vacuuming that needs doing!

Paige, you’ll probably read this one day and wonder if I wrote it to you, or did I write it for you, or did I write it for me, or did I try to write it for other daddies? Hopefully my answer will be E – all of the above. Because, even though I’m a skeptic about the validity or existence of universal truths, I genuinely hope that being an active listener and giver of time – and not just a paycheck – will always be enduring and endearing values.

Love Daddy

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