“My turn!”, my eldest daughter screams as the three girls (well, two with one sort of crawling) clamber to climb on top of your back. “One at a time!”, you laugh gently, taking each one by the hand, bowing and spinning them in a sort of ballet waltz that mirrors that of the prince’s ball attended by Cinderella.
I’m watching our 4 year old as she becomes completely captivated. No smile, only a look of pure intense concentration to dance as gracefully as she can. It doesn’t matter that it’s with you, her Dad.
In fact, it’s better because she knows she can be whomever or whatever she wants to be in this moment. Bossy, clumsy, even slightly dominating as she tries several times to lead the dance. She’s entranced by the magic of her imagination in a world where Daddy has made real the moment where the prince falls in love with the princess. Still spellbound, she whispers, “Make me fly Daddy”. You dutifully lift her above your head and spin her around and around in the ultimate dance finale.
It’s their magical reality and it’s always been this way. Our daughters occupy that place in your heart that embodies pure love. That feeling of absolute adoration and infallible love that no other could replace.
It’s true that you rarely say ‘no’ to our girls and I can’t lie and say it doesn’t bother me sometimes when bedtime routine takes 3 times as long as it does with me because they need ‘one more story’ or want you to lie with them for ten more minutes. It sometimes means I have to be the bad guy who insists they eat their vegetables or refuses “one more sweetie”.
Inevitably as they grow, this relationship will change. Feasibly from the more physical play to more difficult, emotional needs. And it’s not easy with three daughters who all regard themselves as Daddy’s girl. As the youngest gets older, she’ll become more demanding. And so your attention will be split in yet another direction.
But I’ve come to appreciate the space you represent in our daughters’ lives. It’s different to mine. In a world where insecurity and self-doubt plague so many women, it’s so important for girls to know they have a safe space in a man with whom they can say anything and be loved no matter what.
You make sure each of them feels special, so conscious are you that they’re all different and need different things that although I’m the main caregiver, I appreciate the parenting example set by you. You’re no push over but you always bend over backwards to make sure they’re happy. It means they go out with Daddy in mismatched clothes- often dress up outfits-, scooters, bicycles, whatever (could be both).
I know you didn’t foresee the changes that having children, particularly daughters, would have on you. What is it with a man and his daughters? And three at that. Yes, we’ve both felt the pressure to have a boy and still the comments from other people about what it will be like when they’re all teenagers suggest an adverse future for you.
It’s not always easy coming from the Nigerian culture where the father’s role is the career go-getter and little importance is placed upon ‘playing’ with your children. I too notice the looks you sometimes get when we’re in some people’s presence.
Despite that, I have a feeling nothing will shift for you and your girls even when they’re moody teenagers who’ll inevitably push back and turn their back for a few moments. You’ll be right in there the way you already are when they want a side ponytail, baby doll to stop crying or the chance to play “Peppa Pig” with you.
For them, their first encounter and most important relationship with a man is and has been with their Dad. Add in the complexity that you are black, our daughters mixed and the media’s f***ed up representation of black men in our society, you represent so much more than just their Daddy.
If it’s true that little girls choose their future partners based on their fathers, having a Dad who is as adoring and absolute in his love for them is so precious. So today I count my blessings to have a husband who is the father to my daughters that they’ll always need. If I could choose a partner for my daughters it would be with a man like their Daddy. Thank you.