A friend of ours found out through DNA testing that his 10-year-old daughter from a previous marriage isn’t his daughter. The revelation brought a myriad of “what-ifs” and “where-do-we-go-from-heres” into his life. But I can tell you one thing: I’ve seen him with that little girl and he is definitely her “daddy,” paternity or not.
What is it that makes someone a daddy to his child? What caused me, even as a successful, professional woman, to still call my father “daddy”? How can men raise healthy children and launch them into our world? The gifts my father gave me made a difference in my life.
The gift of position. When I went places with my dad and he introduced me to people, he never said, “This is my daughter who . . . makes the honor roll or plays the trumpet or is a buyer for Macy’s.” He swelled with pride and said, “This is my daughter.” It was as though being his daughter was the most important function in the world. And to him it was. It was all that mattered, all I needed to make me worthy of his approval. He was proud of me for who I was—his.
My father’s unconditional approval, my secure position as his beloved child, freed me to pursue my dreams. I knew that, no matter how foolish someone else thought I was, Daddy was always on my team, cheering me on, because I was his.
The gift of possibility. Daddy believed I could do anything. It didn’t matter if I wasn’t athletic and had always been slightly overweight, I could play basketball if I put my mind to it. It didn’t matter if the college I wanted to go to had never allowed someone to attend college in lieu of their senior year of high school. He was sure I could do it and went to bat for me.
No matter what my previous failures, it was always a “new season” with Dad, a season filled with incredible possibilities. He never brought up my record, never suggested that I aim lower or choose a more reasonable goal. He was my cheerleader, my coach, my mentor, believing that I would be the MVP of whatever I set out to do. His confidence allowed me to aim high, believing I was capable.
The gift of proximity. Daddy always let me sit near him, pulling me close. There was always time for a hug; I was free to cuddle. Wherever we were, if I wanted to be held, he would do so.
Teenagers can be strange creatures, pushing their parents away one minute, ashamed at any display of affection, and then wanting to be near the next, wanting to be held. It requires sensitivity of parents. My dad let me take the lead, showing him how much affection I needed. He was freely affectionate, so my brothers knew it was not unmanly to show affection, even to need it. And as his daughter, I received the touch I craved in a positive relationship, so I wasn’t out seeking it in sex. My dad helped protect me by ensuring I got plenty of affection at home.
The gift of perserverence. Daddy was a personnel manager. He knew what made a good employee. He taught me the importance of sticking with something once I started it. When everyone else was calling out of work in the summer to go to the beach, I wasn’t allowed to. I had made a commitment, and my employer was counting on me. If I joined a club or marching band, I was in it for the duration; there was no giving it up when I became bored with it.
Because he didn’t allow me to quit every time the going got rough or I got bored, he trained me for an adulthood where I could hold a steady job and remain committed to a marriage.
The gift of permanence. I knew my daddy wasn’t going anywhere. He was in my life, in this family, to stay. No matter how bad things were on any given day, I knew he would always be there. He wouldn’t walk; divorce was not a part of his vocabulary. My father loved me by honoring his own commitment to his marriage and our family.
A biological father isn’t nearly as important as a daddy, and the good thing is, no matter what DNA tests indicate, you can choose to be a daddy.