When she was a teenager our only daughter, Susan, was embarrassed for me to introduce her with "I have four sons, but this is my daughter." Naturally I persisted in doing this because she was a teenager and was embarrassed by my saying it.
There is a story I've told so often she probably thinks she really remembers it happening. When Susan was about four we went together to the bank. She wanted to see what was going on, so I lifted her up on the counter. Who can resist a sweet, good-natured and extremely beautiful four-year old? The teller offered her a sucker. Very sweetly she replied, "I have four brothers." Somehow I always want her to be that innocent little girl.
When she started Kindergarten I tried to convince her that if any boys tried to be friends she should say, "My name is Susan. I love my daddy the best. I don't talk to boys." The "don't talk to boys" part ended when she met Richie, on the first day of school.
Our four sons all understand that their father loves them deeply, but in a crisis the child I want with me is Susan. A crisis such as being told your wife of 40+ years needs immediate, life-or-death surgery -- that's when Susan is my strength. Or, when you yourself are going into long put off heart surgery and your primary worry is said wife of 40+ years -- that's when Susan is my strength.
Whenever I see some young father with his little girl I want to tell him that every daddy needs a little girl. He needs one if only to learn what absolute and unconditional love really is. I have seen daughters who adored their daddy when no one else could. My little girl never seems to remember or recall my mistakes and stupid decisions. [Although I do suspect that when our kids get together without us parent types they do tell mommy & daddy "horror" stories.]
Another thing I tell young fathers is to not turn their back -- when you turn around a few seconds later she won't be that little girl you could lift up to see what's going on. Somehow she will have become a practicing lawyer in a city 200 miles and four hours away.
This past week my baby girl was hurting; and I had tears. She faced pain and turmoil and disappointment; and there was nothing I could do to be strength to her. I couldn't even tell her I knew how she felt. No mere daddy could have known. Every daddy needs a little girl, if only to teach him what pain really is and what tears are really for.
One does get old enough to learn that the sun also rises; but age brings the wisdom to know the time to point that out is after the sunrise. The darkest time has now passed. A few more sunrises may have to take place, but recovery does come. Susan will go on because she is a strong woman -- even if she will always be daddy's little girl. After all, every daddy needs a little girl.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.