I LOVE a lot of things in life but two things in particular: being in control and being able to exercise it at my discretion.
That word—control—is a pivotal point to bring up because, as a dad of two preteen daughters, to think I can obtain control quickly plummets me into the land of the stupid.
For instance, a couple years ago, Samantha and Nyla were determined to keep me awake. So much so that they insisted on lying in the bed with me. When I refused to allow them to do so, Samantha, relentless in her pursuit to stay in the room with me, kept pleading her case to justify her desire. Your room is bigger. Your bed is bigger. Your television is bigger and better.
I could (largely) ignore this, but then Nyla would pull her sister into their bedroom and huddle like she was Tom Brady about to call a play. Then Nyla would deliver the bomb: “Okay, Daddy. We won’t bug you any longer. We’ll just grab some chips to eat and lie down right here on your beautiful white couch.”
Then they just stood there, smiling, staring at me, waiting for my inevitable response: “Y’all can come into my room and watch the damn TV.”
This is just one example of many. I tell them to go to bed. They negotiate the terms. I make a stand. They chip away at my position. I try to be a firm father. They use their youthful enthusiasm to soften my edge and then get their way.
Worse still: Sometimes my daughters pretend to capitulate while actually being bold enough to tell others the truth. As Nyla and Samantha said to my sister, their aunt Carmen: “It’s really not that complicated. All we have to do is behave and do what we’re told for a few hours and Daddy will give us aaaaaaannnnnnnyyyyyyyyything we want.”
Daughters leave dads powerless. To me, the only thing potentially more enjoyable than seeing my children safe, healthy, and happy is knowing that I’ve helped make them that way. And when I fulfill those needs and desires, at no other time does my chest protrude so much with pride and joy.
But here’s the problem: It shrinks me to a puny status the second I realize that they’ve wrapped me around their proverbial little fingers.
My Samantha makes sure to bat her eyes at me and tell me how much she loves me before informing me that she wants something. Then she says: “Daddy, face it. You feel great seeing me happy. So stop fighting it.”
And she’s right. The less I fight, the less everyone fights. My life is complicated and tiresome. I argue for a living. How big a problem, really, is staying up an extra 30 minutes (okay, 90 minutes) with them in bed? How crucial is it that they listen to my every word?
My daughters will soon grow into women, and I know that they’ll require more from me to excel, live long, and prosper. There will be far greater battles and challenges, I’m sure, but at least for now I realize that checking my ego at the door when I come home, knowing they are waiting just to run into my arms and simply say, “Hi, Daddy,” is the best thing I can do for myself and my family.
I may be powerless. But damn, I’m also so proud.
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of Men's Health.
You Might Also Like