This is not a piece about how great my daughter is. This is a piece about how quickly my daughter has surpassed my expectations and how easily she has become the type of person I also aspire to be. What I have learned about fatherhood continues to surprise me. It is challenging. It is rewarding. It is humorous. It is real. I love it, warts and all.
I always looked forward to having my child say things that are funny coming from a young person’s mouth. But what I have also learned is that those moments are inconsequential. Those cute moments might be fun to share on Facebook or Twitter, but what really means something to me now is seeing the person my daughter is becoming. I can honestly say that my daughter is going to be a better person than me. I’m not talking about accomplishments, wealth or academic accolades. (She might just surpass any of those, too.) What I’m talking about is her personality. I don’t remember much from my early years, but I know that I didn’t share many of her traits.
She’s more thoughtful and selfless than I ever was as a child.
I was age appropriate in my childhood development as I just couldn’t see past myself. My daughter, on the other hand, is concerned about people. If a friend is sick, she wants us to call him or her. She is willing to let go of old toys and clothes because she understands that someone else might need them more.
She’s aware of how she looks and understands some of the complexity skin color plays in our history.
After reading a book about baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, my daughter was so impacted that she crafted an original song called Everybody’s Equal about the problems Jackie faced.
She’s a true advocate for her family and friends.
My daughter reminds me to take my allergy medication. She asks me how I am doing when I might be sick or sore. She addressed a woman who she thought pushed one of her friends and went to protect that friends. When I explained to Camilla that this woman was actually trying to prevent her friend from being hit by a swing, my daughter went to apologize to the woman.
She wants to make art for her teachers. She thanks people for giving her a seat on the bus or train. She thanks me for giving her daily vitamins. My daughter has learned that it’s not just polite to express gratitude, but that it also feels good to be grateful.
She is fearless.
Although this can also be a little scary, it is wonderful to see her speak up for herself. On the bus recently, a truly insufferable woman pushed past my daughter and me to attempt to exit the bus. We were also trying to exit. I mentioned calmly to the woman that she should not push, especially with my daughter in tow. Camilla then said, “It’s not polite to push people. You’re supposed to say you’re sorry.” Well, she was right. Thankfully, the woman actually agreed and apologized. Unfortunately, she couldn’t leave well enough alone and sneakily told my daughter she was the one who was rude while I was helping an elderly woman on the bus. Camilla immediately told me this. She asked if what this woman said was true. I told her no. There are many people who feel children should be seen and not heard. (An incredibly high percentage of those people seem to take the bus.) We disagree. We encourage her to speak up, as long as she does so respectfully. Speaking up has empowered her to talk to kids at the playground who aren’t being nice or to tell me about a classmate who kept touching her hair against her wishes.
One of the more difficult things for children at that age is to attend someone else’s birthday party. Not only is that other child receiving all that attention, but they are also receiving gifts. I can not help but be impressed with how respectful of her friends she is. She is quite possibly more excited about a friend’s birthday than that friend. She gives hugs, a reassuring touch on a shoulder, and lots of smiles. I was a far more selfish young child.
She’s can be a pain in the …
Wait, were you under the impression that my child was perfect? Or that I was delusional? Rest assured, I am not. My child is human and imperfect, like her old man. She questions things to which she knows the answer. She is convinced she knows better than me. Yeah, basically she can be too smart for her own good. The list of grievances is far too long. And I’d much rather not get worked up again. But, I know that this is all par for the course. Hiccups in the grand scheme of things. If you are aspiring for perfection as a parent, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Sharing all of this is not exciting. It’s not as cute as a picture of my child in a bee costume or rapping the opening bars of The Beastie Boys’ Paul Revere, which she can do by the way. But it is certainly more meaningful. To me, fatherhood has become enjoying taking time to watch my child do things that she couldn’t do months ago. It’s become treasuring the person that she is becoming and knowing she might just have a positive effect on the lives of those around her. It’s become acknowledging that this at home dad who grew up without a father might just be doing something right. And isn’t that great!
A version of Better Person first appeared on The Brown Gothamite.