By: Christian N. Kraus
Last week’s Father’s Day weekend was, for me at least, one for the record books, not so much because of the day itself, but because of what it has made me think about.
Elizabeth and I secured a place on Lake Oconee for the week leading up to the big day, got the boat out of storage, invited a few family and friends to come visit on a two-day rotation, and, for the grand finale, had our two daughters with us over the weekend. For me, it was a week full of the things I love most in life—being on the water with loved ones, soaking up the sun, staying up way too late catching up with friends and family, sleeping until we are darn good and ready to get up, and just…being.
This kind of thing has become increasingly difficult to do with the girls since our oldest, Caroline, graduated from Georgia College Nursing school just last December and entered the full-time workforce, and our youngest, Sarah Catherine, has moved into the early stages of Senioritis and wants more and more to spend time with her friends. But, when the planets can all align (as, indeed, they began doing last week, apparently literally, culminating in a rare planetary alignment just this weekend), and it can be me, Elizabeth, Caroline, and Cat at the lake, hanging on the boat, anchoring up and relaxing and floating at the sand bar, and maybe docking up at Gabby’s for an early evening snack, all is right with the world. And for all of those things to happen on a Father’s Day weekend just makes the sweetness of it all more precious and priceless; so it was for this past weekend.
Of course, the girls all showered me with extra love and attention, and I got several very thoughtful gifts. Cat got me a new St. Christopher, Elizabeth and both girls got me a new pirate T-shirt (yeah, the boat captain is obviously into all things pirate), and Caroline got me a new hat that declares my status as a Girl Dad.
What’s a Girl Dad? I’m glad you asked. A Girl Dad is, in my estimation, simply a father who has been blessed with ALL girls…no other male influence in the house…just Daddy. It’s a special club, one that I am beyond proud to be a member of.
The thing is, and maybe this is me getting older, or seeing both our girls moving into early adulthood, or a bit of both, I feel and fear the fleetingness of these kinds of times with all three of my girls (because, believe me, folks, a Mama’s relationship with her girls is a beautiful thing to behold, but it’s DIFFERENT than a Daddy’s). It all made me spend a lot of time this week thinking about a Daddy’s relationship with his girls, in general, but especially what it’s like for me to be a Girl Dad. For any and all other Girl Dads out there, see if any of this rings true for you.
First and foremost, being a Girl Dad means that you strike a very delicate balance between being the stereotypical, masculine, male personality type and being a softer, gentler, more affectionate, and stereotypically feminine personality—you have to sort of become, to the degree you are able, a kind of manifestation of the blending of masculine and feminine the Chinese Yin/Yang image symbolizes. You do this because you want your girls to see both a strong, masculine image at work in their lives, but you also want them to see the image of the knight in shining armor who would lay down his life for his lady (or, ladies) if necessary. You want them to know that chivalry isn’t dead, despite what the media would have you believe. So, you get out in the yard, cut the grass, fix the fence, build the barn, do the heavy lifting, and all those “manly” things, but you also vacuum the house, cook dinner and wash the dishes, fold the laundry, clean the toilets (I know, Elizabeth, I let you beat me to that one far too often—I’m trying, honey.), help your wife color her hair, and let your girls paint your toenails as a sign that Spring has officially come. You do all of this because, one day, a day you look forward to with a terrible mixture of dread and anxious anticipation, your baby girl/girls is/are going to become interested in boys. And when that happens, you hope that you’ve projected enough of a manly, masculine image that not only will they end up with a guy strong enough to protect, care and provide for, and defend her if need be, but also a guy who will be affectionate, loving, tender, attentive, and who will not be so wrapped up in being “the man of the house,” that he neglects the wonderful woman that she is and the partnership they should have.
While I’m on the subject of boys, guys, I’m going to level with you. Being a Girl Dad means that we’ve already thought up a million different ways to make you disappear if you break our baby girl’s heart. It means that when you come over for the first time and we are on the couch cleaning our shotgun, it really is “all for show,” but only a little bit. It means that one of the most wonderful and yet awful days that we dread and hope will come, will be the day that she brings one of you home and we don’t immediately want to kill you. And yes, fellas, all Girl Dads feel this way.
Because here’s the thing: being a Girl Dad changes the way you see the world completely. You want it to be a safe place for your girls, but you also want them to be courageous enough to seek out and see the wonder in it, too. You want them to have seen you be vulnerable so their Mama can be strong. You want them to have seen you cry at the sappy moments in Matthew McConaughey romantic comedies. You want them to know that while they (one day) deserve a man who will treat them like the princess they are, that they have just as much place wielding the sword themselves. You want them to be strong enough to stand by their man through the untold challenges they will face and the millions of ways, large and small, their man will (almost certainly) screw up because you know you did it as their dad, despite how hard you tried to be perfect in every way; or you want them to be strong enough to stand on their own if need be.
Being a Girl Dad makes you truly understand what it means to be graced with love and beauty and the blessed nature of life. It makes you know what being graced and blessed is; because you get the chance to experience it despite the undeniable truth that you just don’t deserve any of it.