Photo Cred: Katie Nicolle Photography
It’s a typical Tuesday morning. It’s around 8:30, and I am about to go to Show & Tell – a local coffee shop where I tend to write my sermons. I am in the bathroom brushing my teeth, not really paying attention to much around me as I think through the day of writing ahead. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Liv, my daughter, run into her room, ripping her jammies off, hurrying to get dressed. 30 seconds later, she waltzes out in leggings, a shirt, and pink tutu around her waist. Ballet shoes are on, of course. She makes her way into the bathroom and poses, both hands on her waist, swaying back and forth, head tilted slightly to the side, and she waits. I don’t really know what is going on, and so I just keep going about my routine, until about 10 seconds later she says, “Daaaaad…” holds her tutu in both hands and smiles. Ahh, she is showing me her ensemble. “Beautiful, girly,” I say.
“Thanks, Dad.” And she runs away; well, moreso prances. Liv always dances. But that was it. All she wanted out of me was for me to see her, and see what she wanted to be: at that moment, beautiful.
And in the grand scheme of things, this may seem like an insignificant moment. I get that. Just a sappy, average exchange with a dad and his daughter. But for me, that was a battlefield moment.
In my line of work, I get to meet a lot of people with a lot of stories, with common pains, and with ears tuned to a million different voices – most of which they shouldn’t be listening to. My daughter is in that already – and it is my ambition, privilege, and desire to be the one voice that trumps the rest. Even at 4 years old, she sees the ads that pop up on Youtube, the shows, the Disney movies, the different well-meaning strangers that tell her she’s pretty or cute usually followed with “because of her blue eyes and blonde hair” (I have a whole issue with that). This is all before she gets on social media, or the boys start coming around, or the opinions of friends start mattering way more.
The voices in her life speaking about her, declaring truths over her life, and even lying to her, will be many. And I am not naive about that at all.
But what I won’t forfeit is the role of my voice in her life. A battlefield moment in the bathroom is setting the stage for future fights. I don’t intend to lose those moments because, over time, I am making deposits into her soul that will leave her so full that I hope the other voices that speak contrary things, or that try to manipulate her worth, will be drowned out by the voice of her dad’s encouragement and love.
Young Dads, and Not So Young Dads, with daughters -it may seem idealistic, but man, don’t waste the moments you have. It is hard to put to words the impact we have on our baby girls. And in the crazy fray of young families, we need to fight for that place in our daughter’s world. The advantage we have is that we start out ahead – we are given, by virtue of being ‘Daddy,’ the first position, but we have to earn the right the keep it. Because although we never really lose it, the things we say for good, and bad, and the things don’t say enough will forever impact her — the direct influence we have can be lost. How we treat her, how we speak, what we encourage, what we don’t, all of it adds to and subtracts from the power we have to be the loudest voice, to be the voice she runs to when she can’t discern through all the other ones.
There are life and death in the tongue. And you will sow one or the other into her in a very unique and powerful way – not to mention that the voice of her father will shape how she hears the voice of her Father – God. That’s a crazy thought in and of itself.
I am beginning to realize the power of my voice more and more. At one point in that last season of our lives, things were a little more stressful than the average, and I realized that I wasn’t handling the stress all that well when I asked Liv if she knew that I loved her. And she said to me that, yes, she did, but that I should probably stop yelling so much. Ouch. Crushed. Truth hurts. Tone, volume, emotion, stress, unthoughtful words (that she ends up repeating)– all of these things matter in her 4-year-old world in a way that I am only beginning to understand. Her mind and heart, expectations and identity, all being shaped by the careful and carelessness I allow to cross my lips.
My goal as her Dad is not perfection; God alone can fill that one. But I want to speak in a way that protects her, encourages her, forms her, and cultivates her soul.
I want to win in her heart the seat of the loudest voice. I don’t want to assume that being her dad is simply enough. I don’t want some young guy with talented thumbs for stringing together compliments over a text to be able to shake the foundation that I will set. I don’t want her needing to run to any other place for affirmation. I want to win her heart. I want to be the loudest voice. I am going to call out her creativity, and ability. Her uniqueness, and intelligence, her gifting, and her beauty. I don’t intend to leave a void for anyone else to fill (And yes, as my wife reminded me, that is until her husband shows up, and I reluctantly and due to the rigorous vetting, confidently step aside as a new season emerges).
Dads, let’s do it for our daughters. Maybe in the earlier years, it’s hard to notice the impact. Speak dads. Speak life. Speak often. Speak loudly. Speak boldly. Speak to what you see in her. Speak to what you see in her potential. Speak to her gifts. Speak to her passions. Speak your love, your affection. Speak up. Don’t miss the small moments, they earn your voice a spot in the big ones.
The other day: we are in the bathroom washing our hands together. Liv’s hair is a mess, her face is dirty- one could call it dishevelled – but as we look in the mirror and I ask her, “What do you see?”
“Beautiful,” is all she says.
I think, for now, I am winning the fight.
I just want to send huge shout out and thank you to Cassie Wolfe for helping edit my thoughts into a coherent post! She’s an amazing author, leader, and home cook with a heart to really help people, check her stuff out: https://cassiescookery.com/