My oldest daughter is strong willed. Impossibly so. Reminds me of me a lot. It’s silly to say about an almost-2-year-old, but I see a lot of myself in her. It gives me hope – hope for my future, hope for hers.
She, like me – or maybe because of me, hates being helped. She would rather bang her head on our hardwood floors, much to my wife’s chagrin, than allow either of us to grab something off a counter for her or carry her when she’s not tired. I try to walk the line between respecting her choices, even at this early stage in her life, and making sure that she gets the things she needs and stays safe. It’s hard. It’s hard to see someone in need and know that the best thing you can do sometimes is let them struggle. Let them fail. Let them learn. I’ve heard that the problem with learning from experience is that the test comes before the lesson, however sometimes those lessons are the most memorable.
I never thought that I would one day be the father to a child, let alone children. Not that I regret it; quite the opposite, actually. Long before I even met my wife I used to imagine what it would be like to have kids and shape a portion of the next generation. I just didn’t think I’d find a woman who would tolerate me long enough to marry me and have kids with me. A divine level of patience she must have. I’ll never understand. We’re getting off topic.
I want to give my girls the tools to succeed in a world that currently hopes they will fail. They’re at a disadvantage, for sure. I only had to deal with being black, in a fairly progressive city even, growing up. I can count on one hand when a school friend prefaced an overtly racist joke with “no offense to your kind,” or showing up to a job interview and hearing “oh, you didn’t sound black on the phone.” My daughters will have the chance to enjoy those wonders as well as being discriminated due to being women. Knowing this, it’s all I can do to try and prepare them. With every tantrum my oldest throws, I think I’m – no – we’re, making progress.
Make no mistake. I’d like my daughter to be polite in the right settings and I certainly want her to treat people with a baseline level of respect. However, I never want her to think she should focus more on making others happy than being happy herself. I want her to stand up for herself, even when it’s inconvenient to me. I want her to find as much value in her life as she’s given mine. People will disagree. My wife, who is a bit more “traditional” at times does. That’s fine. But I want her to live every day knowing that she owes nothing to anyone. That she deserves everything she attains. And I have faith that she will make me proud.
She’s kind. She puts away her toys when asked. She helps her mother and me clean if we ask, sometimes volunteering on her own. She comforts her newborn sister when she cries. She contributes to our small society.
My daughter takes my best and worst qualities and somehow shines them in a new light. She shows me the person I’d like to be. The person I could have been. The person I one day might be. And I’ll do everything I can to shape a world in which she can prosper.