“Dad-dy,” she said with great enthusiasm as I walked in the door from work.
It actually caught me by surprise. My 9-yr-old daughter is not often so affectionate with me.
However, Wednesday night, as soon as I walked through the door, she came up to me and gave me a great big hug; probably the longest, and most heart-felt, embrace she has given me in recent months.
I immediately realized that we were having a rare and special moment.
“Thank you for this, Lord,” I prayed in my head as I held her tightly in my arms.
As a father, there is nothing more rewarding then the acknowledgement of love from my children. It is the validation of a job well done as a parent, who, along with my wife, is the primary teacher of my children.
“I got a 100 on my tests,” she told me proudly.
On Tuesday night, I helped her study for her religion and social studies tests. We went over her notes and workbooks, as I shared some insights and explanations on the subjects (Bible basics and Florida geography). After reviewing each subject, I asked her several questions, which she answered correctly. I then told her to brush her teeth and go to bed. That was it. That is all I did. It took about 25-30 minutes.
Yet, based on the reaction, I must have done more than that in her eyes. I paid attention to her. I gave her one-on-one time that, with two younger siblings, is hard to come by on a daily basis. I shared with her the greatest commodity I have, love.
I will cherish that moment of unadulterated love locked in my daughter's arms.
However, not more than two hours later, I was reprimanding her because, after dinner, she was waiting for me to start studying for another test.
“Oh, no!" I told her as I raised my voice more then I intended to,"You are not going to wait for me to study every night. When you go off to high school and college, Daddy is not going to be there to study with you! You have to learn to study on your own!”
She was downcast by my outburst.
Thursday night, during a discussion with friends, I was able to reflect on this incident. Sure, in the realities of this competitive "dog-eat-dog" world we live in, I may be right in my assessment of her study habits but, just after having made a welcomed progression in our relationship, I should have handled it with more sensitivity and grace. I took one-step forward and took three steps back.
Perhaps the reason for such rare moments, like the embrace we shared upon my arrival, is not my daughter's lack of affection; as it is her reflection of my standoffishness.
The teaching lesson with my daughter became a learning one for me.