To the Son who made me a Grandpa
When my daughter was born, she looked just like a beautiful doll. So when she was little I would occasionally call her, “Dolly." One day when helping my brother-in-law move a piece of heavy furniture I said, “What we really need is a dolly." Then I heard this angelic little voice behind me say, "Here I am daddy." That is one of those mixed memories. It makes me laugh and it makes me cry. She was, still is, and always will be my precious little dolly.
Today, my son and his wife celebrated the birth of their first child. A daughter. And if my son is anything like me when I was first handed my baby daughter, it’s a little overwhelming. Okay, a lot.
To my son...
In the musical, Carousel, Billy Bigelow, a Barker for a carousel (and up to that point a completely worthless human being), finds out he's going to be a father, so he starts singing about the things he’s going to do with his son.
“I'll teach him to wrestle And dive through a wave When we go in the mornin's for our swim His mother can teach him The way to behave But she won't make a sissy out o' him Not him! Not my boy! Not Bill!”
The song continues, and then Billy has a startling epiphany.
“Wait a minute! Could it be? What the hell! What if he is a girl? What would I do with her? What could I do for her? A bum with no money! You can have fun with a son But you gotta be a father to a girl.” What Billy was never able to realize was that being a father to a girl is fun. But there’s a trick to it. With a son, you’re in the driver’s seat. With a daughter, she’s behind the wheel. And you’re along for the ride. Young sons will do whatever their fathers want them to do because for an unspecified period of time, you’re their hero, and they want to be just like you. Daughters have an entirely different agenda. They want you to fit into their world. And if your daughter is anything like my daughter (aka your sister), it will be a very unique and fantastic world.
Although you are already keenly aware of this, I am not an expert on parenting. There are only two types of parenting experts. 1. People who have never had children. 2. People with younger children, who are convinced they (and their perfect offspring) will never make the same mistakes you (and your older imperfect offspring) make. However, even imperfect parents like me can still learn a few lessons along the way. Here’s one I learned. Be a hands-on father the second your child enters the world. If you wait until the second second, you’re already one second too late. There are some absolutes in life. Add this one to the list. If you decide not to be intimately involved in your child’s life, it will come back and haunt you some day (and every day thereafter).
Even as I am writing this, I already know that you’re going to be an incredible father. So why am I even writing this? It’s a parent thing. We can’t help ourselves. Welcome new member.
Son, as one father to another, I need to warn you about something that you are completely unprepared for. It probably has never even crossed your mind. But now that you’re the father of a daughter, you’ll need to be prepared for it. You may think it won’t happen to you. But it will. And when it does, it will flat out kick your butt. It will reduce you to a sobbing puddle. Daddy/Daughter songs. Now you may be thinking, “No problem, I don’t have to worry about that until my daughter gets married and I have to do that daddy/daughter dance thing.” (Sorry, I had to take a break and wipe my eyes as I was laughing so hard).
Let me give you a piece of sage fatherly advice. In the event that you’re listening to the radio while you’re driving your brand new daughter home from the hospital, and a song like Butterfly Kisses (Bob Carlisle) starts playing, don’t try and power through it. Pull over to the side of the road before your vision becomes impaired. After your eyes have dried, give her a tiny hug. Then give the mother of your daughter a not-so-tiny hug. Then ease back onto the road and pretend you’re a tough guy until the next time…
Love (with all my heart)