Last week, it was a gorgeous day; the kind of afternoon in autumn that prompts a person to mount a bicycle or walk among the trees letting go of their leaves. I happened to be riding my bike in your neighborhood. I rolled past you and your daughter, walking together. She appears to be about six years old, hair in pigtails, bouncing along beside you, pointing to something in a tree and talking about whatever had caught her eye, but I could not make out what she was saying. Although right beside her, you were not responding or even acknowledging that she said something. Head down, swiping your phone screen with a thumb, you were somewhere else.
No, please, don’t consider this some kind of old man speech to the young buck. I am just a dad too. I have made plenty of mistakes when my children were small. I wish I could go back and repair things, but like the trees, time has captured those years. They flowered and bloomed, withered and were gone. The season of when our children are small and intuitive and budding with questions is small. Your little girl needs you to listen to her interests. She needs your undivided attention. She wants your adoration beyond your words. Her tiny comments and silly conclusions will development a sense of wonder and good communication skills. You are her example of a “big person.” What will your example be?
Allow me to give you an insight to where this is headed. She will continue to doddle along side you for a couple more years, mainly because she has no choice, then she will begin to whine about not wanting to do a suggested activity. She will not really know why she doesn’t want to do that activity with you . . . it’s just boring, even if you sugar it with “come on it’ll be fun.” Things transition to middle school where she starts having an interest in friends and boys and . . . well, maybe her own phone that she can thumb through and close out the world. You can try to buy her things to make her happy and give yourself a brief hope that you are connecting, but it only feeds the wrong stimulation. High school is a whole new game. Now, her perception of guys is what you gave her; you know, the only example of a guy in her life for those formative years. You’ve established a definition: a guy pays attention to you on his time and buys you things when you seem upset or distant with him.
It all could have been avoided. Sure, you can blame society, but it’s not the truth. It was just a little girl who wanted to know what kind of bird was in that tree or why the leaves are now orange when they use to be green. Silly? You might think so, but you were given the responsibility of being her father for a reason. You can dismiss it, but the fact is you will be a positive influence in her life or a negative one. Saying you went on a walk with your daughter is just moving from one place to the other if your purpose is not about spending time with her. Turn off your phone. Talk about things that she finds interesting. Point out silly looking bugs or ask questions about her.
I know I was long winded. And I apologize for my nosey, unsolicited advice; but this is crucial. I would love to go on a walk with my daughter again and hear her babble about so many amazing things. Take advantage of this time.
Sincerely, just another dad