I'm gonna watch you shine
Gonna watch you grow
Gonna paint a sign
So you'll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father
Who loved his daughter
more than I love you
When I was in Philly, Todd brought the kids to a park. Riley and Seth took up with a group of younger children who wanted to play tag. Here's the thing about little kids. They are the biggest bunch of cheatingest cheaters. They stay one foot from base, and any time the one who is "it" steps an inch toward them, they get back on base. Oh, and they change the rules so that everything is base, if need be.
They all do it. Except Riley.
Riley is a rule girl. By the book. She wouldn't dream of cheating which is why she is always "it." You can imagine how frustrating it is to be creamed at tag by a bunch of 4 and five and six year olds when you are nine and clearly not supposed to lose.
She had a huge meltdown, and they had to leave.
In the car Riley wailed,
"I AM SUCH A LOSER!"
"I'M TERRIBLE AT TAG!"
"I'M NO GOOD AT ANYTHING!"
"I'M SO STUPID!"
"THEY ARE ALL LITTLER THAN ME AND I AM SUPPOSED TO WIN!"
"IT'S NOT FAIR!"
"I SUCK AT EVERYTHING!"
On and on and on it went.
Todd tried to soothe her, but she couldn't hear him.
Finally, exasperated, he banned her from talking.
"RILEY STOP IT. NOT ANOTHER WORD! NO MORE TALKING!"
She tried to squeak out a couple more self directed insults but he was adamant.
"RILEY I MEAN IT, ZIP IT! NOW!"
She whimpered all the way home.
Later when they were both calm, he held her and spoke from his heart.
"Riley, when you say bad things about yourself, and put yourself down, it tears me up inside. If someone came up to Seth and called him a loser, I would never tolerate it. That is my son. I would put a stop to it immediately. If someone ever said anything bad about you, same thing. It would be unacceptable. I know how brilliant you are. I know how gifted you are in so many ways. I've known it since the first moment I saw you. The day you were born, you had a presence like no other baby in that nursery. You were wide-eyed and aware. Taking it all in. It was incredible. I know in my heart you are destined to do great things. Who cares if you aren't good at tag? All those kids were cheating! The only reason you weren't winning is you were the only one following the rules. I know it's confusing to you right now, but I cannot allow you to talk about yourself like that. You would never be so unkind to anyone else. I can't let you do it to you."
Riley snuggled in closer. Todd stroked her hair as they sat together quietly on the couch.
The day I returned from my trip, there was a Paul Simon special on PBS. We were having a ball, the four of us trying our best to copy the moves of the South African singers to Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes. The Father and Daughter song came on. It starts out slow, and since we don't have that CD, none of us had heard it before. Todd and I began dancing (think arms around each other's shoulders like in jr. high) but when the lyrics became evident, he excused himself to dance with a different partner.
Riley beamed, and as they twirled, he sang the words to her,
I sat on the step, marveling at them, my heart about to bust.
He loved me, but when I was a little girl, my father's own pain made it impossible for him to be a good dad.
Yet, things have a way of working out, and I did wind up getting the father I always wanted.
I married him.
Happy Father's Day Todd.
I love you.