So here’s, the thing….my Dad died when Mia was just 7 months old. And one of the recurring thoughts that has plagued my mind is, “how do I raise a strong daughter when my greatest source of strength is gone?”.
You see, my Dad was the voice in my head. He told me he loved me and was proud of me every single time I talked to him. He told me I was beautiful and brave. And in rare quiet moments, he would ask me if I was happy. For Christmas and birthdays he got me first edition books on poetry and Winnie the Pooh and encouraged me to write.
He taught me about being tough and mentally strong. When boys chased me on the playground, he taught me to ball up my first and throw a solid punch. Before I drove out of my parents’ driveway for the first time, he taught me to change a tire and check my oil. He told me that I should never have to change my own tire, but I damn well better know how.
He taught me to suck it up and dry it up. He taught me that my body was always able but my mind had to be willing. When I whined about not getting into the best heat in a track meet or not getting the right spot in a cheerleading routine, he would say, “well what can you do to improve and earn that spot”. And then he would encourage me to meet those goals.
When I interned over the summer at his office he taught me that the two most important people in any building are the person who cleans the floors and the person who serves the food. The janitor works harder and comes across more people in any given day than any other employee in the building. And the server is not only feeding your body, they might just hook you up with an extra brownie or bigger serving on sloppy joe day. He said if you didn’t know the names of those two people, you didn’t deserve to have the CEO know your name.
So when I lost my Dad my mind wandered to Mia. I was already 7 years in to raising boys. I had the sports and the wrestling and the cuddles down to a science. But how would I raise a strong daughter without him?
A few weeks ago my husband, Sarath bought Mia her first American Girl Doll. He was on a random “distract the toddler stroll” during a family bowling outing and he just couldn’t resist getting her a Bitty Baby. Now I know my way around a Nerf gun, a football field and even the occasional video game. But this was my daughter’s first doll. I was seriously excited. So for days we talked about naming baby. Would she be Baby Bella or Baby Ali?
I taught her how to hold and cuddle and swaddle her sweet baby doll. Then a few days later I asked her again, so what should we name baby? And she said, “Baby D. Baby Defense”. I stood there stunned and slightly annoyed. And asked her for confirmation. “Baby D? Defense?”, I asked. And she replied, “Yes mama, dis Baby D”.
And that’s when it hit me. I’m doing it. I’m raising a strong daughter. She’s determined and smart. She’s independent and kind. She’s funny as hell and she’s simply amazing. She doesn’t need someone to name her baby. She’s got this. She can cuddle her Baby D, carry her in a pink Under Armour bag and run with her brothers at football, all while rocking a 4 inch bow. And while I miss my father intensely, I’ve come to know that he is here. His words that he gave so freely, are inside of me and now are written all over her.