Our daughter is 15 now, yet I still remember her first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday. If she was nervous, she didn't show it. She's always had an independent streak about her. She was excited at starting a new adventure. All day at work I thought about how she was doing, whether or not she made any friends, if she liked her teacher. I was very interested in hearing all about her day when I got home. How the first big day of kindergarten went for her. We sat down to supper and I asked her how her first day of school was.
She suddenly got very serious and formal. I had to keep myself from laughing because it was so strange to see her acting like that. She said, very seriously. “Mom, dad, I am going to marry Matthew.”
My mouth fell open. I had gone through in my head all the things I expected her to say. I remember reading my baby book of how I described my first day of kindergarten. You want to know what I said? “It was great, we even got two desserts, jell-o and pudding.”
I expected her to talk about what they served for lunch, what her teacher was like, what kind of games they played at recess. Never in my wildest dreams, did I expect her to come home with a marriage announcement. For quite awhile neither my wife or I could say anything. When I was able to recover my voice, I told her that 6 years old was a little young to get married. She gave me this look like I just wasn't getting it. She said, “dad, we're going to finish school first, but I'm going to marry Matthew.” As if I didn't have anything to say in the matter.
If this young man was going to be my future son-in-law, I figured I should try to find out something about him. So later that evening I was talking some more about Matthew and asking her what made her so sure this was the boy she was going to marry. She said, “I want to marry him, dad, because he reminds me so much of you.” I confess, at first I got a little prideful, I thought, “this is is a smart girl I've got here. She wants to marry someone like me.” But later after we had all gone to bed I really thought hard about this. I do some of my best thinking in bed. If my daughter is looking for boys with the same qualities as me, as boyfriends or potential husband material, you had better believe I need to make sure I’m acting like the sort of man I would want my daughter to be interested in. It really put a whole different spin on this kindergarten marriage planning. Things suddenly got very serious indeed.
Our children and grandchildren are watching every move we make, whether we know it or not. Children learn by example and by copying those around them. I remember one evening we gone over to my wife’s aunt and uncle's house for supper. After the meal, we were sitting around drinking coffee and visiting. The kids were at the table also with drinks of their own. My son was studying me like he was about to take the most important test of his life. He held his cup exactly the same way I was. When I took a drink, he took a drink. When I set my cup down, he set his down. He never took his eyes off me. It made me wonder how long he was studying me before I realized it. Our children are watching us all the time. And when we start to think no one is watching us or cares about what we are doing, that's when we need to be especially mindful of our actions and the words we say, because they are probably looking at us closer than ever.
The point of this whole message was reinforced with sledgehammer-like blows just a few weeks ago. My daughter had just gone through a very messy break-up. Things were not happy in the Meissner house. This was one of the occasions we are so fortunate to have a two-parent household. My wife was in charge of damage control. My job was to get the men out of the house. So I said to my son, “let's go fishing!”
Later that night, during the “dad’s de-briefing”. My wife told me during the most difficult part, with tears streaming down her face, our daughter cried, “Why can't I just find someone like dad?”
As these words met my ears, I felt the heavy weight of fatherhood so much it was as if I would be crushed by it. I feel as if I'm being measured by a standard I can't possibly live up to. But I have a family depending on me, so I have to do my best to try, don’t I?
The next morning, I had to take our daughter to band practice and I asked her how she was feeling. “Better than yesterday,” she said. I felt like I should say something. So I reached way down deep for the best piece of fatherly advice I could manage, and said, “you may not want to hear this, but it doesn't matter if it takes until you are old and gray. Good guys are worth waiting for, and you don't deserve anything less than a good guy.” Not bad, huh?
And as she left for school and I drove off to work, I resolved once again to be the best husband and father I can be.