Fathers & Daughters

I was sitting alone this evening, eating a sandwich at a local fast food place, relaxing and enjoying one of my favorite pastimes—people watching.  A very tall, well dressed man in his late twenties or early thirties came in with his daughter.  The daughter must have been about three years old.  Her head was about mid-way between his knee and waist, and she had to nearly run to keep up with his long-legged gait.  I noticed right away that she had a very good grasp of speaking in complete sentences, with plenty of expression!  Her head full of loose blonde curls bounced about her face and down her back with every step.  Hanging onto her father’s pant leg, she was all smiles in anticipation of the treasure she knew awaited her deep inside the child’s meal box.

With meal purchased and daughter placed in a booth, dad walked over to the soda fountain to fill his cup.  With his back to his daughter, an ecstatic voice filled the restaurant.

“Daddy!  Daddy!  I got the frog I wanted!  Daddy, Daddy!  I got the frog!  That’s what I wanted! …Daddy!”

A smile instantly spread across my face at the pure joy expressed in the voice and on the face of this precious child, whose eyes were huge with excitement.  Her dad did not turn toward her, or acknowledged her enthusiasm.  She was still elated when he returned to his seat.  Waving the frog in the air, she talked non-stop about every detail.  What it looked like, why she wanted it, what it sounded like, what it could do.  He simply stared blankly at her, stuffing French fries into his mouth. 

As the little girl ate her boxed meal, she chattered on about things on the box, what she would do with the frog when she got home, how excited she was sure mommy would be when she saw it…  It was a delight to listen to and watch her.

After about fifteen minutes of getting single syllable responses from her dad like, “What,” “No,” and “Eat,” she stood on her seat and looked around the restaurant to see who else was there.  She stood on her tip-toes and still her eyes were barely able to see over the back of the seat.  When she spotted me watching, her eyes squinted up in what must have been a beautiful smile behind the seat.  I smiled back and her fingers, obviously holding herself up, stretching over the top of the seat, waved at me.  When I waved back, she giggled and disappeared. 

Moments later she returned to looking over the back of the seat, and this time she held up a little green frog.  Those sparkling blue eyes grinned at me, waiting for a response.  I looked at the frog and back at her, excitedly mouthing the word, “Wow!”  She giggled and her dad uttered another single syllable word, “sit.”  Again, she disappeared.

As I slowly ate my supper, she continued her one-sided conversation about everything she had done, or seen, or heard, or wondered during the day.  Dad looked around the room anxiously, sighed several times, stuffed his mouth, and texted on his phone.  Rarely did he even look at his child.  In fact, from where I was sitting, I could see that he had the tall bag that the food came in, sitting directly in front ofhim.  The bag, no doubt, conveniently obstructed his view of the ramblings of the vocal creature opposite him.

How can one become so immune to the sweetest little voice bring forth well developed three-year-old queries that could quite possibly be a prelude to truly thought provoking questions which may one day become the basis for groundbreaking scientific investigations?  DUDE!  WAKE UP!!  NEVER STIFLE AN INQUISITIVE LITTLE MIND!

Needless to say, by the end of the twenty-five minutes I had set there, the little girl simply lost interest in trying to carry on a conversation with the man behind the sack, across the table from her.  She sat quietly, ate her meal with her right hand, and held her new frog treasure tightly in her left. Now and then she made her own two-sided conversation, between herself and her frog friend.

Granted, I do not know the entire situation, but it was clear that the dad was not accustomed to being alone with his daughter.  Somewhere, perhaps working late or at a book study, or doing the shopping, there was a mother who has apparently taken great care in reading to and conversing with her daughter.  My wife (the kindergarten teacher) always says that it is extremely important that you read a thousand (yes, a thousand books) to your child before they reach kindergarten.  It’s really not hard to do.  They can be simple books and you can read their favorites many, many times over.

As I finished my meal, I walked over to refill my drink at the soda fountain.  Watching the soda bubbling up through the ice in my cup, my guide told me that I had to say something because the dad needed to hear it.  I snapped my lid back in place and turned toward their booth. 

Slowly walking in an arch so that it looked like I just happened to be walking past, instead of straight to the booth, I paused when I was nearest to the dad’s side.  He looked up from his texting.

“You really should enjoy this time when she is so sweet and innocent.  Before you know it, she will be grown up and gone from home,” I said, not breaking my gaze.  I didn’t want to give him the chance to look away.  He seemed so detached and a bit of a frown came to his face.  Before he could open his mouth to speak, I continued.

“Seriously, she needs to know how important she is.  Don’t ignore her questions and participate in her conversations.  More importantly, if she does not feel like she is important to you, she WILL look for male approval elsewhere.”  He opened his mouth to speak, but I raised my hand to let him know I wasn’t finished.  Gesturing toward the little girl, I said, “She’s only this precious age for a very short time.  You don’t want to miss it.”

He just stared at me.  I smiled and tilted my head toward his daughter, drawing his attention back toward her.  Leaning to the side, he looked at her around the bag, like he wasn’t sure what to do with her.  The seed had been planted.  I turned and walked away.  So many things that I wanted to say flooded my mind, but I felt it was not the time or place.  I have prayed many times this evening that he realizes how fragile one’s self-esteem is at an early age, and how he can play a major part in developing her strong, healthy self-concept, or in causing the lack thereof.

Each of us has the opportunity to influence those around us in the same way this father could influence his daughter.  Whether we are aware of it or not, our positive and/or negative words, as well as our positive and/or negative energy, affect our family, friends, and co-workers whenever they are in our presence.  Make wise decisions.  Invest the time and effort; the effects on those lives are invaluable.

My wife and I have both loved spending time with our daughters from the day each of them came into this world.  We answered a million and twelve “Zat?” (What’s that?) questions between the two of them.  We’ve sung nearly as many songs to them, many nights as they fell asleep; read thousands of books with them; and engaged in amazing conversations with them from before the time they could form actual words—all the way to today where they are grown and gone from home.  We love them both dearly and are forever indebted to them for the richness they have brought into our lives.

Love your children, your family, your friends, and yourself, as your spirit rejoices and flourishes in your positive energy.

As Always,

Fully Embrace Your Spirit

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