FULL DISCLOSURE: What follows is, in many ways, a bit of shameless self-promotion for a new project I’m working on. You’ve been warned.
A few weeks ago, I posted a list of five rules for dads raising daughters. When I wrote that post, I was simply trying to clarify some of my own thoughts on parenting, fatherhood, and raising little girls – thoughts that had been largely influenced by a number of books (Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker, Bringing Up Girls by James Dobson, The Heart of a Father: How You Can Become a Dad of Destiny by Ken Canfield, and many others) I’d read in the months leading up to and following the birth of my daughter last September.
I had a lot of fun coming up with those five rules (I guess they were more like suggestions than hard fast rules) and when I eventually hit the post button on the blog, I felt like I had a pretty good foundation for my own philosophy of fatherhood.
As someone who uses the written word to cull out meaning from his experiences, seeing my ideas finally crystallized in written form felt really good.
At least at first, I felt what I think was a sense of closure. “Okay,” I thought, “I’ve finally got all of this stuff out of my head and now I can get back to putting my creative energy into blogging about the masculine experience.” That was all good and well, except for one thing… that’s not really how my mind works.
No sooner had the post been published than I started thinking of other ideas I should have included in my original list of suggestions. In an effort to simply try to clear my mind, the next morning I opened a blank text file on my laptop and started to type. That’s when the ideas started flowing. My fingers couldn’t move fast enough to keep up.
I kept thinking of little small things I could do as a dad, to add a little bit of wonder to my daughter’s life. Some of what I wrote was crap. Some of the suggestions were cheesy. But when I finally stopped to read all 93 of the little tidbits I’d written, some of them were, at least in my opinion, actually pretty decent ideas… ideas like:
Buy her a glove and teach her to throw a baseball. Make her proud to throw like a girl… a girl with a wicked slider.
Go ahead. Buy her those pearls.
Of course you look silly playing peek-a-boo. You should play anyway.
Enjoy the wonder of bath time.
There will come a day when she asks for a puppy. Don’t over think it. At least one time in her life, just say, “Yes.”
Make pancakes in the shape of her age for breakfast on her birthday. In a pinch, donuts with pink sprinkles and a candle will suffice.
Buy her a pair of Chucks as soon as she starts walking. She won’t always want to wear matching shoes with her old man.
Dance with her. Start when she’s a little girl or even when she’s a baby. Don’t wait ‘til her wedding day.
Take her fishing. She will probably squirm more than the worm on your hook. That’s OK.
Knowing how to eat sunflower seeds correctly will not help her get into a good college. Teach her anyway.
Learn to say no. She may pitch a fit today, but someday you’ll both be glad you stuck to your guns.
Tell her she’s beautiful. Say it over and over again. Someday an animated movie or “beauty” magazine will try to convince her otherwise.
Take her camping. Immerse her in the great outdoors. Watch her eyes fill with wonder the first time she sees the beauty of wide open spaces. Leave the iPod at home.
A few minutes later, completely exhausted from the excercise of a massive mind dump, I opened up my RSS reader, and serendipitously read Craig Playstead’s post on how having kids dramatically alters our identity. Read it if you want, but really, it was the last sentence that grabbed a hold of me:
And while the worrying and sleepless nights may have taken a few years off our lives, those little brats added life in our years.
Then it hit me… I want to be the kind of dad who adds life to my daughter’s years. And just like that, I was a buying a domain name and a new blog (lifetoheryears.com) was born.
Parenting is hard work, and I know that compared to the real nitty gritty aspects of raising children, any suggestions I have to offer as such a recent member of the procreating class are, at best, very likely just the cute meanderings of my sleep-deprived new dad mind. Even so, if nothing else, I hope what I have to say might encourage any parents out there who happen to be reading to think about little ways they can add life to the years of their own children.
For the foreseeable future, or as long as Kelly lets me, I will be sharing a handful of my posts from Life to Her Years here on the Red Dirt Chronicles each Wednesday morning. Although I will still occasionally use this space to share and chronicle my thoughts on growing up and discovering what it really means to be a man, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that those posts will probably be increasingly rare as I shift more and more into the newest part of my identify, that is, as a dad.
Then again, if trying to be the best dad you can be to those cute little rascals who share your DNA while encouraging other dads to do the same isn’t masculine, I don’t know what is. Maybe the two aren’t so disconnected after all.
P.S. Nine years ago today, at 6:02 in the evening, I married my high school sweetheart. If you happen to know my lovely and talented wife, please do me a favor and wish her a happy anniversary today. Like many other dudes out there, I definitely married WAY out of my league.