As I’m preparing to write this piece, I can’t help but wonder how in the world did I make it this far as a father? I just put my 17-year-old daughter in her car, and she’s driving off for her annual summer vacation of visiting aunts and grandmas. And as I was standing in the driveway, waving goodbye, I knew I had to start this blog post over. She has been doing this since she was little but knowing this is the last summer she won’t be coming home at the end has really taken its toll on my heart. College is only a year away and even though this child is the light of my life and reason for existing I can’t help but stand in awe of how our children raise us. Yes, you read that right. I said how they raise us!
Now, this might seem like a foreign concept for some of you, but I was not the kind of parent you would see on the Disney channel. More like MTV. And not today’s MTV but 1995 MTV with all the hot mess shows and music videos that we grew up on. But don’t be scared, this story isn’t about anything less than how God saved my life by sending me my little Jerzey Girl. That’s what I call her, and she got that handle from a Bruce Springsteen song. Which kind of explains my MTV analogy. But follow me here and I promise there’s a happy ending. Because it’s nothing short of a miracle that this wonderful young woman is as well rounded, big-hearted and just the sweetest thing this world has ever seen. And yes, I’m going to brag on her the entire time!
Because fathers love to brag on their kids. I know she’s going to grow into a strong and independent woman. She’s courageous and headstrong. She reads people well and she doesn’t get embarrassed very easily either. And when I say beautiful… There’s nothing that can light up a room like her little smile. I also love that she’s not too into boys. I know she’s had a few crushes but there have only been a few “boyfriends.” But we’re not going to talk about that. What I’m proud about is that she holds herself to high standards and always respects herself. I know she’ll go off to college prepared for the world with an attitude of “challenge accepted” and I can’t wait to see this girl on fire.
Now you might be wondering if she truly is (and she is!!!) this awesome. And if she is, she’d have to have an amazing upbringing, right? And that’s the point I want to make because that wasn’t the case. I was 21 years old when she was born and only about 23 when I found myself as a single dad. And let me be clear. I don’t blame her mother for anything. But sometimes it’s the dads that get the honor of being a single parent and this was all part of the master plan. Because at 21, I was unprepared, inexperienced and unqualified for fatherhood in general. Not to say that I disliked children but at that time in my life I wasn’t someone you would trust to take care of houseplants. A daughter was way out of my league. Talk about scared too.
She was a rather easy child and mild-mannered. She slept 6-8 hours at night almost immediately and was never fussy about eating. I had lots of family that gave advice on how to hold her correctly and tips like wrapping her up like a burrito in her blanket so she would sleep through the night. Changing diapers and mixing formula wasn’t exactly rocket science and she was fun to play with. All I had to do was keep a roof over her head, food in her belly and take her to the doctor from time to time, right? Or so I thought. Because fast forward 17 years and I can honestly say it has been the single most difficult task I ever imagined. Although it has been the most rewarding and greatest blessing in my life as well.
I was the kind of dad that teased too much. I convinced her she had been born with a tail. (She believed that till she was 6, by the way). I’m sure there were more times I was short with her because I was having a bad day. I moved her around a few times, and I know that broke her little heart more than once. I’ve disappointed her over and over and she still loves me unconditionally. I know I wasn’t a perfect dad and yet somehow, I believe I have the perfect daughter. The Lord knew exactly what I needed and all the trials and lessons that we somehow overcame has instilled in me an appreciation that can not be explained. So, when you’re worried about not being a good enough parent. When you’re trying so hard and things still just don’t go your way and when you look at your babies and are overwhelmed with fear that you are going to do something to mess them up… Congratulations!! You’re doing it right! Because I don’t believe we are supposed to be perfect and I also believe that everything happens for a reason. That these little people are given to us as a gift and that we have so much to learn from them.
Teen camp Father contract
I am a forgiven, intentional and purposeful father.
Appointed by God to love and lead my daughter!