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happiness | ˈhøpin1s |
1 feeling or showing pleasure or contentment
2 inclined to use a specified thing excessively or at random
3 an abundance in your life of that which makes you happy and giving it away (darwin's definition)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Daddy's Girl

Over the weekend my family and I traveled to Las Vegas to attend my nephew's wedding and in the process I had a "moment" with my daughter. The moment I'm referring to is one of those memories that we might cherish and remember forever. However, it might also become one of those memories that keeps my daughter in therapy most of her life. Either way, it was definitely a moment.

Before I describe the moment, let me give you a feel for my relationship with my daughter. Words could describe our connection but for me the following photo say's it all:

Although this photo was taken several years ago it captures the essence of the girl I see in my daughter. She is full of life and when she looks at me I know that I hold her hopes and dreams in my hands. So too, my daughter is also very contemplative and very insightful:

She is very connected and experiences life with every breath that enters and leaves her young body. She is definitely a "daddy's girl" and with that role I carry much responsibility and pride. It is an amazing experience to have another human being think so highly of you, believe in you and look to you for guidance. My daughter definitely has her own opinions and so too she isn't shy about thinking her dad is a dork (especially when I'm dancing with her) but there is a connection between us that is unmistakable.

So when she caught the bouquet at my nephew's wedding at the young age of ten I was both excited for her and immediately present to what it would be like to give her hand in marriage someday. I immediately popped up to my feet and gregariously shouted, "No, put it back! Put it back right now!"

Everyone in the wedding shared in this comedic moment of a father shouting for his daughter to not even think about the concept of marriage for a couple of decades. I could hear the laughter all around me and I too felt pride in being the center of attention for just a second. It is similar to those times when a remark gets a laugh from everyone in the room and for a split second you feel on top of the world.

But that was the experience for everyone in the room except my daughter. She believed she had done something wrong. She looked into my eyes and, before I could explain that I was joking, she tossed the bouquet back and ran out of the room crying. The energy in the room changed in an instant and I went from funny guy to creep in less than a second.

My heart broke in that instant. No woman has every broken my heart so deeply. My deep, meaningful love for my daughter spilled out onto the floor as if I had stabbed myself with a dagger deep into my soul. In that isolated moment, we were the only ones in the room. Time stopped for an eternity as her innocence spilled out all around her. Before this moment, her father could do no wrong and would always be on her side. Afterwards I was yet one of the many people in the world that would betray her trust at her expense.

I ran after her but just like in a Hollywood movie she disappeared into the hotel hallway and slipped out of eyesight. I sprinted down the hallway to mend her heart but it seemed she had disappeared into thin air. Calling out to her I knew that she wouldn't respond. And when I found her curled up in the stairwell crying I would've given anything in the world to take back this moment.

My wife and several of my daughter's older cousins soon appeared and you can imagine the logical conversation we had with her to explain why her heart shouldn't ache the way it did. I didn't mean it, it was just a joke, it was a symbol of your father's love for you...these words made her tears stop rolling down her cheeks but we all knew things would never be the same.

The next morning she clung to me and hugged me a little tighter than before. In this moment we had grown closer and further apart at the same time. Both of our hearts were broken even though they overflowed with love. All the kings horses and all the kings men, couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

I've replayed this moment in my head numerous times with varying scenarios of how I could've handled this situation better. Why didn't I just keep my mouth shut? Why didn't I call out to her with arm's open wide? Why didn't I just savor the moment of my ten year old daughter catching the bouquet?

The truth I know to be true is that this moment will only be a negative, harmful memory if we both allow it to be. I have the rest of my life to be a great father worthy of being her daddy. And that is what I intend to do.