“Wouldn’t you like a green dress instead?” he said, a twinkle in his eye.
“A nice green dress would look really pretty, don’t you think?”
His persistence convinced me a green dress had already been purchased. I prepared to look pleased when I saw the hideous green that would surely be this dress.
Finally, the day arrived. I sat on the living room floor, its green carpet mocking me, my birthday gift unopened while the family sang Happy Birthday. Mentally, I practiced to conceal my disappointment when I opened the package. I was about to put my acting skills to the ultimate test.
I should have known better. After all, this was the same character who, four years earlier, had smeared peanut butter on my dolly’s bottom while I wasn’t looking and then stood back to watch my reaction. Maybe I was a slow learner or maybe I was just born to a rascally joker bent on messing with a gullible little kid’s head.
I peeled back the first bit of paper and released a gasp. Opening the package all the way, I feasted my eyes on the cutest little red dress in the history of the world, complete with lacy white detailing on the pockets. For years, Dad would retell the story of how I got so excited I went head over heels on the spot, and the delight in his eyes is as vivid to me today as the color of that little dress.
Twenty years later, I lost my father to pancreatic cancer and the memory of his gift vaulted to the top of my list of things most cherished.
Dad wasn’t a perfect father, but he sure was one of the best. Although six-year-old me couldn’t have articulated it, my father sent me an important message with that little red dress. His gift communicated what every girl’s heart longs to hear from her daddy: “You are beautiful. Your femininity is a treasure. I delight in you. You are loved.”
Dads, you are important in your child’s life, at any age, whatever the circumstances. Find ways to speak your child’s language, to touch his or her heart in a way that only you can. If this is a new thought to you or if you have already blown it, you can start today.
If you are a father who takes this privilege seriously, I salute you. Thank you for often laying aside your own comfort to fight for your family. Thank you for never giving up. For whether they’re in diapers or little red dresses or tailored business suits, your kids need you. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. I can think of no greater legacy than being able to say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, “My daddy loves me.”