It was a surreal experience, after nine months of wondering what this new person would be like. One moment she didn’t seem real because I had never met her, and the next she was real enough to see, hear and hold. The way I felt was similar. One moment I loved her only as vaguely as I knew her, and the next I felt love like a frozen mountain stream thawing, breaking free and rushing towards her. My daughter was not there, and then she was. Love was not there, and then it was. After having not one but two daughters, you can understand that it would be impossible for me not to change.
Change, whether it’s life or a diaper, can get messy. Sometimes a bath and change of clothes is really the only way life can go on. Learning to deal with diaper changes, sleepless nights, and pink pants with kittens on them (and no, I wasn’t the one wearing them) were adjustments for me, but not the only ones, not the important ones. These little people have taught me lessons I never would have learned if I had not become a dad, if I had not had daughters.
I grew up with three brothers and no sisters. I never really wished for a sister, and even now I don’t wish for different siblings. I was ignorant about girls, though, because I didn’t know better and didn’t care to know better. I was too busy climbing trees, shooting at squirrels with a slingshot and just generally rough-housing. Against all odds, I somehow met and married a beautiful, civilized lady, but that was apparently just the beginning of the story. I went from being the boy with no sisters to being the man with two daughters seemingly overnight. These little ladies have rocked my world, without a doubt.
In the past, the word “daughter” made me think of an emotional, boy-crazy teenage girl, constantly chased by questionable teen boys for me to scare off. (“Have her home by 8:30 sharp, unless you want to meet my good friends Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.”) Maybe that’s anxiety, or maybe just emergency preparedness; I guess I’ll just have to find out.
Whatever the future holds, though, worrying about it never prepared me for the beauty of the stage I’m in now. Words fail when Lydia climbs up into my lap uninvited, blanket and book in hand. It’s the same when I get home from work, and Abigail starts clapping and gives me a toothless grin almost big enough to swallow her entire face. What’s a guy like me really supposed to do? I never even had a chance, after all. The “No Girls Allowed” sign melted long ago, and my heart is now a warmer, better place.
My daughters have helped me continue to learn how to deal with my own unrealistic expectations. For some reason, I had the ridiculous subconscious expectation that I would have a son, so each time I became a father to a little girl it was a lesson in managing expectations. I wasn’t opposed to having daughters; I just thought I would have more in common with a son. I would love to have a son some day, but either way I’m thrilled about the amazing daughters that I do have right now. Daughters might not have been my plan or expectation, but they’ve taught me that sometimes what I think I want most is not what I actually need most.
I’ve learned that girls can like tractors just as much as dolls. Flowers and pretty dresses are sometimes less interesting than sticks and rocks. Mommy isn’t always chosen over Daddy, and the list goes on and on. As they grow up, it’s fascinating to watch each of their personalities, like flowers beginning to bloom, opening up to reveal more intricacy and beauty than I could have ever imagined. The more I get to know their complexities, the more I love them and am understanding of them. I didn’t know what little girls could be like, but I’m so glad that now I know what these little girls are like. It’s a great lesson that I’m learning applies to life in general, actually: it’s too easy to label and stereotype people we don’t know, but by taking the time to get to know someone who is different, we can understand them and see them as individuals and not just “that type of person”.
I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I have thought a lot more about how girls and women are viewed and treated since having daughters. To tell the truth, in the past I haven’t always had the most respectful view of women, and I have to say that my daughters are partly responsible for my shifted perspective. It’s a little embarrassing that it came to this before I could see just how important this is, not only for my own daughters but for all girls and women everywhere who should be viewed and treated equally- by me and by everyone else. True human dignity never varies by gender. That would still be true if I had sons instead, but I don’t believe I would have seen it so clearly. I needed daughters for that.
I’m sure there will continue to be plenty of lessons for me to learn and re-learn along the way. I’m so thankful that I get to be Miss Lydia and Abby girl’s dad. They are precious gifts from God Himself for many reasons, one of the most significant being that they are instruments of grace and love used to soften my stubborn heart.