Daddy's and Daughters...It's complicated, or maybe not.
Sometimes she looks at me strangely. Zoey watches me -- an animal different than she is -- sometimes she pays a lot of attention at the times I am doing very little. Sometimes I catch her staring at me, and other times June has to say something. June thinks that she’s quite smitten with her Dad. It’s entirely reciprocal if such a thing even needs to be said. “She loves her Daddy,” June always coos. I suppose I already know this but all I really see are the stares. Mom gets giggles and laughs. Dad gets stares and smiles.
She loves her Daddy.
The assumption comes at random intervals and often without provocation… as we walk down the street, as we eat breakfast, as I return home and follow the Great Zedder’s trail of tiny prizes – stuffed toys, rubber letters, plastic bowls, and tiny little rice puffs scattered about the house. I’m sometimes a bit surprised at how devoted I am to the interests of a little girl. She was exactly what I was wanting but I haven’t the slightest idea how to attend to the needs of a small woman. I always thought I was more of a scuffed knee kind of Dad, not a “kiss the frog” kind of guy. But this little girl is surprising me all of the time.
I once read a thing that said that a girl’s father is how she will learn about love, and now the more I watch her, the more often I catch her staring, and the more often June utters aloud, “She’s looking at you Daddy,” the more I come to believe that theory about Dad’s and Daughters. Perhaps it's true that a little girl needs to be constantly in love. If she can’t be in love with her father, she’ll find someone or something else to captivate her attention. I'm not sure if that’s true. If it is I hope I can loom that large for at least seventeen or eighteen years, you know, if I do everything right, even the wrong stuff. At that point when she finds a man good enough (que impossible!) I will give her back her heart so that she can gift it to him. I hope that day will be slow in coming.
Of course, I am finding that the other part of that Dad’s and Daughters theory is that fathers fall just as hard for their daughters. If you look very carefully you’ll see that there’s something wrapped around little Zo’s finger. Sometimes you can barely see it but I think it’s embarrassingly obvious…it’s me…oh boy, it’s me.
She’s got me pretty good in just eleven months. I pick up after her. I handle poopy diapers as if they were new balls inserted into the game. I distract her when she’s upset. I handle her gently in the bath. I wipe away tears and find myself hurt when she brushes my affection away. I kiss her head when she bonks it. I fold her tights and kiss the back of her tiny little neck. She’s got me, and I worry that I will have to pay the price someday, but then every once in awhile I catch her staring. Every now and again June cues my attention and out of the corner of my eye I see her watching me. In those moments I turn and smile at her and her face lights up like Paris in July.
Then the biggest smile.
Then a little laugh.
Then a turn of her head back to Mom as if to say, “That’s my Dad,” and Mom says, “I know.”
In those moments I know that I have her too, that every boy’s heart should sink a little for the next decade because she’s seriously smitten with someone else, I mean totally enamored of the guy with the grey in his hair and the Ray Bans propped on his nose. A little disheveled and put together a little too accidentally. Wide smile. Big laugh. Cleft in his chin just like her own.
Sometimes I catch her staring and I’m reminded that the man of her dreams probably begins right here, right now, and that’s a pretty big responsibility to live up to. If I manage it right, and if everything goes the way story books so often go -- just as her Mom and Dad know-- she’ll find the man of her dreams. Strangely enough, she stares at me now but in sixteen or seventeen, or better yet eighteen years from now I won’t stand a chance, and she’ll have forgotten that her second great love slipped out from the shadows of her first...the folder of tights and wiper of tears.
She loves her Daddy alright, and someday someone else is gonna get all those stares. That’s okay as long as she remembers where she learned to love like that.