Your first date.
Every dad dreads this day. And, I must admit, I am very much like every dad. So, to ease the sting of the first date and assure you were treated like a queen, I took matters into my own hands.
I asked you out.
The good news is you enthusiastically accepted. No doubt my probability of success was buoyed by the fact that you believe I am a superhero, capable of throwing your giggling, 36-pound body into the air to unspeakable heights, and catching you again before you konk your head on our food-splattered wood floors.
And who wouldn’t want to date a superhero?
Don’t get me wrong. I am certainly not naïve enough to think that my doorstep will never feel the heavy boots of a poorly dressed, angst-ridden, mouth-breather intent on breaking curfew with my little girl.
No. I know that day is coming. And, sadly, I also know that you’ll look into that bumbling dolt’s eyes with the same sense of wonder that currently meets my gaze every time I miraculously untangle My Little Pony’s long-flowing, strawberry-scented hair from the whirring wheels of your Zuzu Pet.
But this first date was about planting a seed. And I hope that our first night on the town burns into your memory with the intensity of the sun’s rays condensed by a magnifying glass. Because tonight, at four years old, you were everything your future self aspires to be. And since your little fingers and limited knowledge of spelling are only capable of cranking out .014 words per minute, allow me to capture your current life philosophy for your future self to ponder.
So here goes.
Someday, Audrey, you’ll hear a voice. It might be the voice of your friends. Maybe a shout from a picture in a magazine. Or, Heaven forbid, a comment from your boyfriend. And that voice is going to tell you that you don’t have the right clothes, the right makeup, or the right face.
And when you hear that voice, I want you to put on your green Christmas dress in the middle of spring, don a bright red hair bow, and clip a frilly pink flower to your collar. And with a love-stained, faded Toasty blanket draped over your shoulder, and a sparkling pink and white unicorn tucked under your arm, I want you to tell those voices that, in your world, beauty cannot be seen. It must be felt. A confidence that springs forth from deep within heart and soul and bone. Both breath-taking and life-giving.
And no doubt there will be even more voices. Maybe your friends. Maybe a talking head on TV. Or, Heaven forbid, a comment from your own father. And that voice is going to tell you that material things matter. It will tell you to make practical life decisions based on bank accounts and buying power, because money gives you the ability to acquire not only the good things in life, but the good life as well.
And once you’ve listened to their advice, just like today, I want you to pick a dandelion out of the grass and give it to them. With a sincerity and smile born of your generous heart. Ask them to turn down the radio and tell them a story about a stuffed elephant named Geraldine who flies through the air on the back of a magical horse. Then make silly faces in the mirror at a fancy restaurant, and fill up on two loaves of free bread. Show us how delightful it is to dip your spoon into the perfect bowl of macaroni and cheese. Because there’s a reason it’s called comfort food. We distracted people tend to forget. It’s the simplicity that makes you feel that way.
Finally, one day you will hear a voice coming from inside your head. A voice with the same tone and inflection of yours. Using words you recognize. A shout that only you can hear. Confusing. Because that voice will be saying mean and hurtful things like cannot, will not and should not. Telling you not to dream. Not to try. For fear of standing out and looking foolish.
And like your first date, I want you to silence that voice and listen to the music of your soul instead. The music that tells you to dance and twirl in the middle of a crowded restaurant. To spin. All eyes on you. Not once. Not twice. But seven times.
Until you fall down dizzy.
Because you will fall. Onto the cold, hard floor strewn with dirt and crumbs of cheesecake crust. And when you fall, I want you to do just as you did tonight. I want you to stand right back up. And against all better judgment, I want you to pick those crumbs off your dress. Look at them.
And eat them.
Then keep right on spinning. Because it’s not about the messes you make. It’s about enjoying the sweetness of the journey. My daughter, always know that who you are is who you were made to be.
Truly. Deeply. Loved.
Scott makes his living as the founder and president of LifeWork Associates, a leadership development consulting firm focused on bringing more trust and authenticity to corporate America. Most weeks, he can be found delivering a workshop or keynote speech somewhere in the United States.
Scott is currently authoring a book (Fall 2015 – Westminster John Knox Press) about the Year Without A Purchase – his family’s attempt to avoid buying any non-consumable “stuff” and focus on the important things in life. As a musician, Scott has performed and produced an album of original songs and stories called What Would You Do, based on the year he and his wife spent serving in Guatemala. These days he posts his regular writings on his blog, The Accidental Missionary. Follow Scott on Facebook or Twitter @sdannemiller.