To the father that I overheard talking with his daughter on the beach…
I tried not to listen. I promise I did. I was having a rare moment of solitude. As a mom of 2 young kids, I don’t often find myself with a whole hour by myself, much less on a beach, with the ocean breeze making my hair windswept and salty in a more of Nick-Nolte-mugshot-photo/less Sports-Illustrated-model way. But again, alone. On a beach. With wine and my Kindle.
I tried to read, sip my wine, enjoy the warmth of the sun, the breeze from the ocean, and not listen to your conversation with your daughter.
But your conversation kept drifting my way.
Maybe I couldn’t stop listening because something about you reminded me of my father.
Maybe I couldn’t stop listening because something about your daughter reminded me of myself.
Maybe I couldn’t stop listening because I have lost my father.
And this particular day is the anniversary of the day that he died.
And on this particular day each year, I come to sit by the water. Because the water brings me peace, and comfort…and it’s where I feel closest to him.
And the way you two were talking reminded me of how my father and I would talk.
And the way your daughter was confiding in you, is how I would confide in my father.
I told him everything and anything. We would talk for hours.
And I miss him.
It was clear how much you love your daughter.
How close the two of you are to each other.
How you were struggling with this conversation.
You had the best of intentions. You were fighting the good fight.
And forgive me for saying this, it hurts me to do so, but you got it all wrong.
I was pulling for you. Believe me. I sat there, unable to focus on my book, or my wine…silently urging you. Willing you…to talk less…to listen more.
You would have understood then…
You only needed to do one thing.
Be on her side.
It’s the only thing that she needed from you. It’s the only thing that would have helped her.
She didn’t need you to fix her problem.
She didn’t need you to make it go away.
She needed you to be on her side.
That doesn’t mean you have to agree with her, or that she was right.
That doesn’t mean that she wasn’t at fault.
It just means that you are in her corner. You have her back.
You were on her side. You so clearly were. But you didn’t have the words.
They got muddled up in all of your good intentions. They were lost on her.
It made you both frustrated.
It made my heart hurt a bit…her disappointed tone, your frustrated body language.
My own father got a lot wrong. A lot. He was temperamental. He was impulsive. He was often impatient. He was selfish at times. I was officially more mature than him when I turned 5-years old.
We butted heads and drove each other crazy for most of our lives together.
But he was the person closest to my heart.
He was the person that knew me better than any other person.
He was my biggest fan.
And he was unfailingly and unconditionally, on my side.
Without hesitation. Without judgment.
It didn’t matter what I did to whom…It didn’t matter if I was right, left or center.
He was on my side.
And that fact worked miracles in my life.
It gave me confidence, it gave me stability, it gave me security.
It gave me the freedom to make mistakes, and the ability to be comfortable with myself.
I was never expected to be perfect. But I was expected to work through my problems and learn from them. He would ask me “What have you learned?”, wanting my suffering to mean something.
He would tell me “When nothing goes right, go left” and “I’m on your side”.
And those words did more for me than anything else he ever did…
I saw your shoulders slouch. I saw her shoulders tense.
Each of you trying so hard to reach the other.
I’m sorry she didn’t hear you this time. I know she doesn’t understand that you were trying to protect her from herself. Someday, she’ll understand.
But today is not that day.
Next time, I hope you find the words.
You only need four of them: I’m on your side.
So to the fathers of daughters;
We know that we are complicated.
We know that we are filled with an array of emotions that oscillate so quickly, it may give you whiplash.
We know that you don’t always understand us. We don’t always understand ourselves.
Yes, we need your patience. Yes, we need your support.
But above all else, we need to know that you are in our corner, unconditionally, without question.
So when you have the chance, when you get the opportunity…be on her side, Dad.
Be on her side.