The other week I went clothes shopping with my two daughters. The four-year old is easy—anything with “4T” on the label fits her. The eight-year old? She’s more of a challenge. So after a quick spin through the racks, we headed over to the dressing rooms. Minutes later, my girls were in separate changing rooms, trying on clothes, while I waited in the hallway.
It occurred to me then that this was a preview of things to come.
In eight years, I’ll be the father of a 12-year old and a 16-year old, both girls. I’m guessing that my role in the clothes shopping process at that time will be restricted to (a) waiting near dressing rooms, (b) funding purchases, and (c) limited veto power.
I’ll admit I’m kind of looking forward to that day.
As a single dad to two little girls, I find myself doing things that other guys I know my age (married or single) don’t do. Like shopping for matching outfits in the toddler section of Gymboree. Or fixing my daughter’s hair in something other than a single ponytail. Or trying to smile when the grocery store cashier says my wife must be proud of me for using coupons. Or making breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two picky eaters and myself, while also doing all the dishes.
Being a single dad is hard.
There are days when I wish my girls could do their own clothes shopping and do their own hair and give me a little more time to myself. But I also know that this time I have with them is precious, that it will go by all too fast. In ten years my oldest will (presumably) go off to college, with the younger one following four years later. I know I’ll be involved in their lives then, but it won’t be the same as it is now.
I have this window of time with my daughters, an incredible gift from God to love them, to teach them, to mentor them, to prepare them for their lives.
And in this part of that window, when they still run to give me big hugs when I pick them up from school, I have a real chance to make a difference in their lives, because they’ll actually listen to me. I don’t know if that will be always be the case!
Last week I gave my girls a couple of books on Paul Revere that I had picked up as souvenirs in Boston. My eight-year-old, as smart and curious as she is, had no idea who Paul Revere was. I was the lucky one who got to tell her that story. Earlier in the month, she asked me if we were at war. I talked with her about what happened on 9-11, a topic that they’ve apparently not tackled at school. I have the privilege of teaching my girls about freedom and justice and empathy for others.
And also underwear bombers. They thought that story was hilarious. “I have a bomb! In my underwear!” shouted the four-year-old, squealing with laughter. (This is how we make sense of the world in my family.)
I also have the privilege of teaching my girls about God, about His love for them, and about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
I have the privilege of reading to them the Bible (or a kid-friendly storybook based on the Bible). I have the privilege of praying with them at the dinner table and before they go to sleep—and of teaching them to pray.
They listen to me. These wonderful little girls whom I love so much actually listen to me.
I’m so thankful that God has given me this gift, this chance to help them become amazing young women who love Him. I’m not up to the task, of course, but that just means God gets to give me more gifts—the words and actions I use to teach my girls about this world and about Him.
I’m glad that my girls are growing up and doing more on their own—and don’t need my help in the dressing room. But I don’t want this window of time I have with them to go by too fast.
Being a dad is the hardest and most important job that God has given me, and I’m so thankful I have it.
*Photo credit: Koinos Zoi Photography