(This is an abbreviated version of a recent speech I delivered to a group of young women.)
There is controversy in mental health over the necessity of both a mother and father in a family. Can kids grow up just fine without one or the other? This has me thinking. Maybe fathers provide something unique that it is much harder for mothers to do with their daughters. This is how a dad sees his daughter.
I loved your little toes and little hands when you were born. We dads know our sons will eventually be on their own and we are OK with that, but those little fingers of our daughters will always fit inside our hands. You will never be too big, too old, or too damaged. No matter what, I’m here.
From the very beginning of your life I started praying that the parents of the man who would eventually become your husband would treat him well so he would enter a relationship with you as a healthy, mature person. I still do.
I have hopes for you and plans, but you don’t have to live up to my expectations to make me happy. Your happiness, even when it conflicts with my thoughts, is far more important to me.
I call you lovely because you are. You were beautiful as a baby and you are beautiful today, but not because of your body shape, make-up, your clothes or your jewelry. When I look at you I see a part of me – ONLY BETTER. Looking at the young woman before me today I think, “Wow. How did that happen from me?” You are amazing!
I have always loved you, even from the first moment we met. I have loved you when you were kind to me, but I have also loved you when you weren’t. I loved you when you have lied to me, when you have disappointed me, and when your anger caused you to say mean things. But like pebbles bouncing off an armored tank, my love for you cannot be moved.
I’ll never use your past behaviors or words against you and I’ll forget as quickly as I can. I saw a movie recently where a teenage girl said something very mean and painful to her father. When she later apologized, he smiled and winked at her and said, “It is already forgotten, princess.” I can relate with that.
While we’re on the subject, let me say that even though I want you to like me, I have never been afraid to make you angry or cause you temporary pain when you needed it to help you grow. I am willing to risk alienation, knowing that it gives you the skills you needed to survive.
When you turned sixteen I took you to the jewelry store and let you pick out a ring that was to remind you of two things – to remain pure until you marry and to remind you that no man will ever love you like your daddy. I hope you never lose that ring and I hope when you see it you think of me.
I have undoubtedly failed you many times, but know that my heart was always in the right place.
I have tried to consistently communicate a number of messages to you. Things like “You can…no matter what it is.” Many times when you have told me of a success, you have heard me say, “I’m not surprised” because I’m not.
You are unique and I absolutely love that about you. Nobody could ever take your place – not your sister, your brother, or anyone else’s daughter. I lucked out when I got you.
You are perfect just like you are – you are pretty enough, smart enough, and talented enough. I love to see you trying to improve, but even if you didn’t, I’m OK with that.
I will always celebrate with you when you have successes. I will always be here to share in your sorrows when you hurt. I believe in you and I will never laugh at your goals or dreams.
Even though I wish I could be here forever, there will come a time when I will pass on. Even when that happens, know that I’m in heaven bragging about you so that when you join me there, everyone will know you already. In short I’m glad I’m your dad.
A father’s purpose isn’t to flatter or puff up with vain praise. A father’s purpose is to grow a young woman. And that is what I hope I have done for you.
Gregory K. Moffatt, Ph.D.