“Daddy, I left you a note. Read it later, okay?”
Elizabeth is getting older. It seems with each passing day she grows more into someone I have loved, someone I miss looking ahead and someone I love to have conversations with now simultaneously. It is all very different for me, even disorienting.
I am not used to this as a parent.
Up to this day, my world as dad has consisted and been defined as wrestler, human airplane and catapult, storyteller, teacher, dance off partner, prankster, hero, partner in the kitchen, cook in the making, confidant and defender against gross boys . . . that I know are becoming less and less gross to her.
Things are beginning to change.
Elizabeth is growing, and I am having to trust a little more than I’m used to. Quite honestly, more than I am ready to. Some days, I watch her interact with her friends and listen to her talk about her day at dinner and all I want is for the little girl known in my heart forever as, Schmuggie McGuiness, to be there. For context’s sake, she acquired that name from me. I gave her a fitting Irish name during her first international trip to Ireland at the ripe old age of 6 months. That’s the little girl that stared at me, a captive of my every word. While she isn’t exactly packed up to move out, it’s becoming more evident too quickly that she, like my two other loving daughters, are in fact, growing up. And I have to deal with it appropriately.
I will always be her dad, but she will need me in different capacities. So it’s bittersweet.
I want what she is no longer while I am excited to be her dad on changing levels. We have a unique bond. As the oldest, it is a little different than with the younger girls. I’m still the dad that I know how to be to them …and that is an amazing thing to me. But with Elizabeth, she is blazing a new trail in my heart soon to be traveled on by her younger sisters.
Elizabeth is a strong little girl with a heart that loves loyally and with that same heart, wants to belong. She is smart and perceptive. Throughout this past year, she has been more to me than I really believe she can understand right now. One day, she will know better just how valuable she has been in my life as a support and strength. It is a bond that is so deep in my heart.
We struggle a little more in our relationship. As she is growing older, she is getting more complex and reasoning on a different level. She is exploring and discovering more about herself in social situations, and in turn, she is stretching out a bit and pushing limits. Let me not be misleading here. Elizabeth is truly an amazing little girl with a compassionate heart that I pray will only grow so deep and rooted in God’s infinite grace.
Our small struggles have as much to do with me as they do with her; sometimes much more with me and my death grip on who I still want her to be at times, little Schmuggie McGuiness.
She left me a note recently. They each have their own way leading directly to the center of my heart, but it is an especially direct route with Elizabeth. She’s getting older faster. In every passing day, I realize that I can do nothing to stop her growth forward, slightly away from me and into her own.
I read it as we walked to her room so I could tuck her in and tell her goodnight. I’m gonna do that for as long as I can.
Reading those words, I decided all over again that with little thought I would walk through a mountain for my little girl. I would go to hell and back for her every single day for her. I’d fight an army single-handed and absolutely anything else that opposed her.
I would. I would want to.
But let’s face it truthfully. I’m only a man; a man who is just trying to be a dad and has his hands full just with that. I couldn’t do those things.
Emotionally, I’m convinced I could, and I promise you I’d try. I’d even fail at trying over and over again. And do you know what I realized after my emotionally charged romantic notions of being her hero subsided? I would be wrong each attempting and failing time.
Too many times, my steps reach to be leaps longing for validation and security, overcompensating for poor choices. My daughters do not need a dad too busy with himself, set out to prove his way in this world and striving for image improving reflection. They need a dad present, one who loves God enough to trust fully and admit that striving for right in his own might will always lead to ruin.
What my daughter will always need no matter how old she gets and how much she changes is a dad. That is it from me. She already has a hero, and he actually has been to hell and back, moved mountains on her behalf and opposes all that opposes her. And so, the hero died within me and gave room for the versatile dad to be rightly present within me instead. Elizabeth has a Father in Heaven who sent a hero in Jesus and a dad in Guy. She will always be well taken care of.
I love that she finds happiness in calling me her dad.