1. You were always there for me, even when you weren’t present
You worked your ass off to provide for our family and you missed out on a lot of stuff that you felt bad for missing; we missed you too. But when I was dancing in a recital or playing on the field or accepting an award, I was doing it for all of us.
2. I forgive you for not understanding
Hair on the shower walls, blowdriers blasting in the early morning, music blaring on a Friday night, crying on the phone, talking back to my mom, eating every last bit of the Milano cookies in the fridge, forgetting my chores—I was a brat when I was going through stuff. Hell is a teenage girl and you were in the seventh circle of it, yet you tried, or you yelled, or you walked away. We used to butt heads. I used to resent you. I get that you didn’t—you couldn’t—get it. No one could ever ‘get’ all of it, especially as a parent. I understand that now that I’m older and I appreciate you more than ever.
3. You provided things for me that I never realized I had
The mowed lawn or the clean front stoop, the house phone or the always-dusted mantel. The secret chocolates in the freezer, the way the mail was always brought in before you went to work. I took the little things for granted when I lived at home—the maintenance, the lights always being on, the fact that we had heating and a full fridge. You provided the things I needed and you never asked anything of me for it.
4. When you didn’t teach me, you showed me
I had a million questions as a kid and you answered them all the best you could. You learned the homework material that you didn’t even know the answers to, just to help me. When you got frustrated with teaching me to drive, you showed me how to do it your way—you did the best you could. You weren’t always a good teacher, but you never told me to just occupy myself in some other way. You never crushed my curiosities or interests because they weren’t your own. You encouraged me to seek out good teachers, you helped me become a good learner.
5. You protected me without sheltering me
When I arrived at a friend’s house, I had to text you—I felt like that demand deserved all of the eye rolls. I called myself sheltered. Looking back, I can see just how free I was to screw up on my own. You wanted the basics; you wanted to know I was safe. You kept an eye on things I didn’t have the eyes for yet, you kept me safe without keeping things from me.
6. You let me live my life
A lot of dads would show up—to the games, the shows, the whatevers—and yell at their daughters. They’d shout at them to do better, they’d encourage them to compete with other girls. You really didn’t. You drove me to and from places without questioning why I wanted to go. You let me make bad friends and realize their character on my own. You listened when I ranted, you told me I was being ridiculous when I was hurting someone else. You always taught me to clean up my side of the street. You let me fail, and more than that, you realized I had to live and fail countless times if I would ever succeed.
7. I made the right choice a hundred times because I thought about what you’d said
I’m not naive enough to believe that you’d be proud of all my choices, but I know that you saved my life with advice and warnings. I hear your voice in my head more than you think, and even though it drives me low key crazy, I know that I’ve handled myself in the worst case scenarios (that a father never wants to hear about) in the way you would’ve wanted me to handle myself. Your Dad-isms weren’t for nothing. My brain Dad’s me on a daily basis.
8. I will always feel like you’d know what to do and say, especially when the ‘what’ is ‘nothing’
I saw you do business. I saw you sit back and say nothing while you let people explain themselves. You taught me how to take care of business without getting caught up in pettiness. You, Dad, are the realest—even if you have no idea what that means.
9. I love you and I appreciate you
I hope you know that.
10. I won’t always be your little girl
But I will forever try be the grown, responsible, smart, independent, and grateful woman you’re proud to call your daughter.