Dad, am I beautiful?

I’m the product of an amazing father. He’s gentle, gracious, will psyche him up for long shopping sprees and never fails to run ahead to get the door. There are four women in the family. Our nicknames range between anything beautiful and loving; and when disappointed his tone will still be lined with hope and forgiveness.

Deeper than all this, something else was taking place throughout the years my sisters and I grew into womanhood. Our hearts were being made alive.

According to Stasi Eldredge in her book Captivating, a girl’s father is her first ‘love’; in a very non-twisted way. It’s his responsibility to respond to her first calls of affirmation: a young girl putting on her mother’s make-up and screaming at all in the room to admire her being a princess. A girl will run to her dad to have the question answered: “Do you think I’m beautiful?” And woe to the dad whose found nose-deep in whiskey or emotionally captivated by the World Cup.

It’s no wonder a father will walk his daughter down the aisle. He’s been the man in her life all along, until the lucky guy comes along. When I turned 21 my dad gave a speech, and despite all the excitement and glasses champagne I soaked in every word. I suppose deep down, what my dad thought about me was significant.

What makes him different begins with knowing that he loves me, and so I can trust him. At times harsh and clinical with others, it’s a wonder the way his tone of voice changes when he gets off the phone with a work colleague and turns to speak to me.

Unlike many others I know, he’s not hard and cold; he’s not emotionally removed from my sisters and I. His gentleness allows me to ask him deep and vulnerable questions; and know that he won’t tell me I’m being stupid. Simple yet profound.

Despite what a girl may argue, her defences and independence, despite her age; she will always crave her father’s approval. Look at the girls whose dads were ‘present’. They’re the confident ones, the ones who won’t run out to have sex as soon as they hit puberty. Because they don’t need to. The emotional void and desperation for approval isn’t there. It was filled when she was a little girl in a twirly skirt; when her dad clapped and smiled, and told her she was the most beautiful thing in this world.

What has your father meant to you? Do fathers have a different role from mothers?

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