She’s always there to greet me when I get home, usually running out of the garage in stocking feet celebrating the best part of both of our days. She is always calling my name, kissing my cheek, sneaking into bed in the middle of the night to take her half of my pillow.
She’s my little girl, my princess and I don’t have the energy or inclination to argue the gender politics of it. She just is. I look at her and it’s all I can think of- she is nothing short of a treasure to me. She makes me soft where I am hard, hard when I have gotten soft. She lightens me, elevates me. My daughter, but also, my wish- all the wishes I never knew I had.
I don’t love her more than I love my sons. She’s not my favorite, my preferred or better in any way. And she’s far from perfect. But she’s, well, she’s just different.
It had been a long week. Five or six projects coming at the same time, unexpected and ill-afforded travel, I haven’t been sleeping well. All she wanted was time with me, for me to take her to the community center to go swimming and climb the rock wall. Just us, her and her daddy. How could I say no?
It didn’t matter that I hadn’t slept and had been up worrying. It didn’t matter that my work day was hectic or that accidents meant it took me almost two hours to get home. All that mattered was that I was there and I would keep my promise.
I was quiet, she asked if I was tired. It didn’t matter that my head was elsewhere. I promised I would go. And so I did.
“Look at me daddy!” She shouted to me just a step from the top of the rock wall- the highest she’s ever climbed. The ice began to crack, like the smile on my face.
“I’m going to splash you!” She said in the pool and her million watt smile was like sunlight in the darkest parts of my brain, my heart, my mood.
“I love you daddy,” she says as we towel off. And suddenly I realize the other stuff was gone. I tell her five more minutes and she runs back into the pool, giggling, laughing, screaming, looking back over her shoulder at me as I pull out my phone and start to write this.
It won’t always be like this. Some day she’ll move on. I won’t be daddy, but dad. She won’t want me, won’t greet me at my car, won’t shout for me to look or watch. There will be other men in her life, other people she can’t wait to see.
But not today. Not right now. Not this minute.
No, right now she’s my princess and I’m her daddy.
Right now, she’s my little girl.