Parenting Perspective: Daddy's little girl

September 28, 2009

A boy came first. Honestly, I had my heart set on that all along. I'm a first-born, so is my father, and I just couldn't wait to teach him how to do boy stuff. So, when I looked down and received visual confirmation, just as our first one drew his first breath... well, it was a great moment.

When my wife became pregnant again, we were somehow convinced that another boy was coming. The baby was "carrying" the same way (low), my wife felt very similar to the way she felt the first time (generally crappy), the baby was acting just like the other (as if auditioning to appear in a music video for the rock song "Up All Night, Sleep All Day"). It seemed like all those wives tales were starting to really line up.

Don't get me started on those wives tales.

I remember standing there in the delivery room, waiting for our second child to arrive. The doctor was different, the anesthesiologist was different, the time of day was different, I was standing on the opposite side of my wife's bed (how I remember that, I don't know). I'm pretty sure I was wearing a different set of clothes, and this time, I had plenty of gas to get us to the hospital (I am not kidding about that - maybe I'll share that story with you some other time).

Sure enough, what came out this time was something quite different as well.

All you dads who have been there (I had a front seat both times, remained lucid, and kept an iron stomach throughout) know that what happens before, during, and after delivery is quite fascinating. Quite disgusting. Quite shocking. Quite unnerving. Quite flooring altogether. (My wife wanted me to add "quite wonderful" to soften this up, so, "quite wonderful" it is.)

The thing that sticks out the most when our second child left the comfort of a womb, only to be greeted by a bunch of people in scrubs, fluorescent lights, and the generally sterile, stale, white environment that is a hospital delivery room, is this thought:

"Um...(pause for 11 seconds)"


It was then that I recalled the Bill Cosby bit when he is talking about showing his newborn daughter to his dad. The brand-new grandpop looks down, looks at Cosby, and says "Tsk, tsk. Forgot to put the stem on the apple, son."

Yeah, this one looked different too.

I mentioned how I am the first-born son of a first-born son. I am also the oldest of three boys. Testosterone bounced rapidly off the walls of my childhood home, all day, every day - three brothers acting out every bit of their XY chromosomes. My mom used to have this little sign above the kitchen sink that said, "Thank heavens for three little boys." I was certain it was some kind of joke.

Anyway, I had no idea how to deal with, well, a "girl." Sure, I have been around "girls" for quite some time, and I went ahead and married a "girl" (actually, a "woman" better describes her now), but raising a "girl"...this is something new.

Let's fast-forward about six years. A lot has happened between now and then for this dad, one who had no previous education on the rearing of a girl. (By the way, it was pretty much the same with my son.) I've sat here for a few moments, staring into my computer monitor, trying to come up with a list of things that I have learned, thanks to the benefit of rearing a son AND a daughter. Here is the best I can come up with:

  • You learn how difficult it is to say "no" to a little girl, even when you know "no" is the right answer. That "girl look" crushes all willpower of a once-powerful dad.
  • You begin to tune in what some refer to as your "feminine" side, one that contains a wide array of emotions, plus your moral compass, your tolerance of the color pink, your tolerance of the color purple, your tolerance of the colors light pink and light purple, and your ability to play with Barbies extensively - without being sapped of masculinity.
  • You learn the names of all of the Disney princesses, and develop the visual power to identify them by dress design/color.
  • You discover that all she really wants is for you to simply look at her and listen to her.
  • You realize there is nothing better than your daughter creeping next to you, looking up into your eyes, and saying, "daddy, can I sit on your lap?"
  • You already begin contemplating what you will say to the first boy who walks in the front door, hoping to take her out. (This is a situation where saying "no" might be a little easier).

I hope that list was long enough - I'm sure there's more. It's just hard to put into words, really.

Funny how tough it is for this guy, someone who is supposed to be very good at communicating thoughts and feelings through speaking and writing, to express how having a little girl in my life has changed me.

All I know is that if I had not had a daughter, and I had not experienced all the nuances and quirks and behaviors and finickinesses (is that a word?) and emotion that comes with raising one - if I would never have known any of that, I can't see myself being a whole person. Today. Or tomorrow.

It's not just because of who my daughter is. It is also the yin and the yang of what is going on with raising a boy and a girl.

The best part, without question, is it's hardly over yet.

If you have a daughter at home, I'm sure you understand what I am talking about.

By the way, we did re-use the furniture for our second child, thanks to it being unisex. However, our little girl wanted her room to be pink, and told us this pretty much every day after she started talking.

Not only did it have to be pink, it had to be so pink that you could run electricity through the paint. Pink!

Daddy painted his little girl's room pink.

How could I say no?

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