Well, he was wrong. Our little girl calls him Daddy just like I called my father Daddy.
Daddy is often the first name a little girl calls her father, but it can stick around if he meets some specific criteria. And those criteria include a loving disposition, a real interest in her life and being the guiding light in her life.
As a gift to my daddy on this Father’s Day, I’d like to share why I hold this conviction so dear. I was never really an only child.
My parents had a set of Irish twins (two kids born in the same year), and I got Daddy instead of Momma much of the time. I actually preferred him to her when he was around.
I think this is true because he understood that I needed to be paid attention to in a way mommies can’t. Daddy was the one who would listen to me babble on about nothing (which is very important to a little girl) for minutes on end.
From the moment I can remember, I knew my daddy was there no matter what. He was a rock in my life and gave me a solid foundation and helped me to understand the right role men should play in my life.
As many of you know, my parents had 10 kids. I’m the oldest and being the leader of such a big family is challenging, but my dad called me to be that leader. He didn’t let me slide by with excuses.
Daddy always made me the example of the right way to behave and treat others. I didn’t like this very much at times, but I can tell you that it shaped my values more than anything else in my life.
Another hard lesson I learned from my Daddy was failure and disappointment. He is the kindest, gentlest man, but he believes that everyone has to fall and pick themselves back up. And when the failure is an obvious negligence, he shows his disappointment in your actions – never in you as a person.
A real growth moment in my life was the one time I brought home a failing grade on my report card.
I was in the ninth grade and looking for acceptance among my peers. I thought if my grades slipped, I would be just a little more accepted. And I’ll tell you, I had to try to let my grades slip. Failure is not something that I do very well. I think it comes from the ambition my dad taught me. He always said, “Go the extra mile. It will pay off.”
Well, when I went the extra mile in bringing home lowered grades, Daddy had a clear, simple statement for me. He said, “I’m disappointed in your grades. You know you can do better.”
And that was all he did. He didn’t punish me. He didn’t say anything else about it. He didn’t have to. My grades improved within days.
I couldn’t stand disappointing my daddy. I never doubted his love, but I knew my actions hurt him. That’s the kind of man he is.
If you’ve met my dad, he’s not a complicated man. He likes to fish. He likes to find creative ways to fix problems. And he’s not ashamed of his touch of redneck. He finds joy in the simplest of things. Like a rundown camper or a truck he found for $400.
My daddy is also a huge dreamer and optimist. He passed that on to me. He actually believes so readily in dreams sometimes that he gets hurt. He gave me that too. But I don’t think those are bad things to have – dreams and optimism. It helps you believe in people and in yourself, even when the circumstances seem hopeless. Daddy has never lost his hope.
Daddy has an uncanny ability to see setbacks as blessings in disguise. For instance, one of the hardest things he’s had to live with is a debilitating disease. He’s been a diabetic for most of my life. And through a series of unfortunate events, he lost the bottom part of his right leg.
But he saw the light in what could be a negative. He got his health back because he wasn’t being eaten up with recurring infections in anymore. He says on a regular basis that God gave him a second chance at life five years ago. I admire that conviction so much.
I could go on and on about the lessons and love I’ve learned from my Daddy, but that might take a long time.
So, I’ll finish up with a sweet story about him as PawPaw, which is my favorite role he plays in my life.
My little girl, Reagan Leigh, loves to talk to my daddy about nature. She thinks he is the authority on all bugs, plants and wildlife.
At breakfast this past week, she told me that popcorn grows on a tree. I asked her how she knew this.
She said, “PawPaw told me Hannah [my sister] has a popcorn tree in the backyard. He knows these things.”
I told her that PawPaw is a big jokester and was telling her a tall tale. She won’t believe me that popcorn grows on a cob because PawPaw says so.
And that’s ok, because she trusts him. I do too. After all, he is my daddy.