Did you ever say something and then realize it didn't sound like what you meant?
Some of the most precious moments I have as a Dad are when my children are trying to express themselves and have a bit of a verbal faux pas that gives me an excuse to needle them a bit.
So last night I was coming out of a Mexican restaurant where we were celebrating my sister-in-law's 50th birthday. (Yes, Belinda, now the whole world knows that you've turned 50.) I was holding the hand of my 7-year-old daughter Christiana. About a third of the way to the car, she says, "Daddy, do you know what I think of when I hold your hand?"
Always interested in the mind of a 7-year-old (and usually thinking on the same level myself), I said, "What do you think of when you old my hand Christiana?" Because she is often given to profundity beyond her age, I think I was expecting something theologically or philosophically significant. So I was particularly stunned by her reply.
"Beauty and the Beast," came her answer. Well, it was readily apparent to me that she was the beauty in our story so that left only one character choice for me.
"Christiana, I can't believe you're saying that I'm a beast!" Instantly she realized her predicament. It gave me great fun to tease her a bit on the subject. Her 17-year-old sister Grace quickly understood her comment. In the Disney cartoon on the subject, there is a scene of the young lady in that story placing her hand in the hand of the beast. Her hand appeared tiny in the large and powerful hand of the beast. Christiana thought of how small her hand was inside of my hand. In essence, she was noting my relative power and size differential to her own. It was the size rather than any other beastly characteristics I possess (especially since I was shaven at the moment) to which she referred. But the timing and terseness of her answer made for a memorable moment.
Why write a blog article about that? Well, it points out something I've been told but was reinforced by another incident this weekend. To a little girl (up to the age that someone comes to take her away from home), her Daddy is the most important person in the world. It is a big deal to spend time with him, talk with him, sit by him, sit in his lap, hold his hand, play games with him, laugh with him, and discover the world with him. Never underestimate the importance of this job.
My own mother lost her father when she was 10 years old. In the last 50 years, I've never heard her say anything about her Dad that wasn't wonderful. She remembers his kindness, his generosity, his care. And yet another relative I saw this weekend remembered a very different man. He remembered my grandfather as someone who honored his own desires without regard for his family. He remembered someone who did as he pleased and spent as he pleased but gave little love to his wife and children. I knew my grandmother had a hard life. But not having ever known my grandfather, this news was a total surprise to me. And it made me wonder why my mother only seemed to remember the good about her Dad -- those occasional acts of kindness that characterize all her stories about her father.
Could it be that a little girl -- now a widow of nearly 90 years -- still thinks of her father as one of the most important men in her life? If Dads are that important, what kind of opportunity do we have to really influence the lives of our daughters (and our sons) by INTENTIONALLY protecting and wooing their hearts? Hold your little girl's hand today. And if she says you remind her of the beast, have a good laugh about it. You'll shape her heart for a lifetime.