I happened to be at the wedding when Reggie, my dad, read this letter to his friend Mark on the day he gave his daughter away in marriage. Even though it was directed primarily to fathers, I couldn’t help but learn a few things myself. I also thought of a few secrets that my dad should know about his daughter that might be beneficial for other dads too.
Secret one: Rolling my eyes didn’t always mean what I was communicating to you.
I remember rolling my eyes as a little girl when my dad needed to take me by his office. The funny thing is I also remember REALLY wanting to go. I just didn’t want him to know that. Yes, we do play games, and I’m sorry it’s so confusing! I loved feeling like I was important enough to be around my dad’s workplace. It made me feel like he was proud to be my dad.
Secret two: I loved when you invested in getting to know my friends.
When my dad would get to know my friends (at any age), it meant the world to me. I pretended to be embarrassed sometimes. Little did he know, he was communicating his genuine interest in my life. What was important to me was also important to him. And I began to realize that his purpose was not to just make the rules, he wanted to build a relationship with me.
Secret three: Letting go helped me decide who I wanted to be.
When I was sixteen, I got into some trouble at school. I was scared to death of what my punishment would be when my dad got home. This is one of those times I remember him “letting go.” He didn’t really punish me, he told me I was old enough to make my own decisions and that I was accountable to God and myself. The next day, he took me to work with him and treated me like an adult. This was a turning point in my life. I was heartbroken knowing he was disappointed in me. I WANTED a punishment so that I could just pay for it. Instead, letting go in that moment taught me who I wanted to be—someone that could make the right decisions without rules.
Dads, I wish I had been better at communicating to my father how much his holding on and letting go meant to me. The chances are your daughters will probably wish the same thing one day. If you are fighting for her and trying your best, she knows it. So don’t stop. Of course my dad didn’t do everything right, but none of that matters now because he fought for our relationship. I really believe that’s the most crucial part.
I hope this encourages every parent to push on through the eye rolls and know that kids need you to fight for their heart. So keep doing what you do. Every day. Every week. And when that moment comes and you have to let go and let them walk away, you can know they will carry with them all the things you have done for them over time.