Tonight should be a special night for my girl. It’s the Daddy Daughter dance for her Girl Scout troop; a 50’s theme, special time with the most important man in her life, girlfriends to be silly with and enough sugar to keep her flying high until Tuesday night.
I do my damndest to not blog about the specifics of things that involve other adults. I don’t bash my ex, I don’t spill secrets of my friends and I don’t dish on the date I had last Thursday night. I’ve never wanted to go there, because I really do believe in the Golden Rule; I know that how I treat others will come back to me, in some way or another, whether they abide by the rule or not.
But I can’t help but share the heartbreak of my sweet 8 year old who isn’t going to the dance tonight. It’s not something that her dad wants to do, so they’re not going. The reasons really aren’t important, are they? All she hears/sees/thinks now is that he doesn’t want to take her. And let me be perfectly clear: this isn’t so much about him or the reasons that got us here. But she’s another story.
This week as I thought about this, I was reminded of those shows that I get sucked into sometimes; the ones that explore how someone’s life has gone horribly off track, and they find themselves swallowed in dysfunction, addiction, destructive behaviors and the like. They always linger on a smiling school-aged picture of the person who has spiraled out of control, and the voice over features parents and others who reminisce about what a “happy” or “well behaved” child their loved one was. Then they transition to the root of the problem: they didn’t feel loved, they felt (or actually were) abandoned, they felt that they never fit in. So they sought solace elsewhere.
Now, I’m not jumping to conclusions that just because my daughter is missing a Daddy Daughter dance that her life is doomed. I know that the research says that the most important role model in a child’s life is the same sex parent; but I also know that far too many girls suffer because they don’t feel loved by their dad. They replace what they long for with people and things that continue to hurt them. They fill the void with self-doubt and the behaviors that perpetuate the thought that they are not loved.
As my girl and I talked about the dance, I told her that I was sad for her dad; that I don’t understand why he’d pass up the chance to dance with his only daughter. I held her and let her cry. I reminded her that she is strong, smart, funny, sweet, a wonderful friend and the most incredible daughter I could have ever imagined. She reminded me that I forgot to include sassy and we giggled through the tears.
But she’s still sad, and I’m still mad. The night will pass like any other, and hopefully there will be other dances, other special times to share and other celebrations in which she feels showered with love. Thing is, we as adults don’t get to choose which impressions impact a child the most. If we did, they’d remember the blow-out trip to Disney more readily than they do being yelled at in the morning because they didn’t brush their teeth. I’m no psychologist, but I believe that it’s the ‘little’ things that create the soundtrack of a child’s life. How we interact with them in the everyday, rather than the special occasion, that shows how we love. I think that kids are razor sharp and know that the words are hollow when the actions are non-existent.
I know that when she’s older she’ll see both her dad and me as people rather than just her parents. I know that she’s already forgiven him, and likely won’t dwell on being sad. But right here, right now, we’re still pretty special in her eyes, despite our abundant flaws. I’d like to hold on to that for as long as I can, and I wish someone could explain to me why anyone would pass up the opportunity to be a superhero in his daughter’s eyes.