Today I went on a run and something unusual happened.
A woman with two little dogs on leashes (here in Oregon we are a big pro-canine state where most citizens attend very well to the needs of their fluffy and furry friends) had just stopped to give them a breather when she saw me and enthusiastically called out, “Wow...you are a fast runner!"
I was stunned but kept going, only then to have few clumsy words tumble out of my mouth in response, "Oh, bless your heart.”
You've got to understand. I am not a fast runner. Okay, maybe if you put me up against a first grader I might be considered fast. But that’s about it, even on a good day.
I actually started jogging the summer after my senior year of high school. Even still I only run in very small doses, three times a week at best. And sometimes when the weather is bad I decide I’m not in the mood and then take the whole week off. This simply translates to the fact that I don’t invest much time into this sport and consequently I’m a bit slow on the draw. That’s why today was a first.
I noticed how the empowering words from a complete stranger had a very powerful impact on my energy, my mood, and my stride. And as her words echoed repeatedly in my head after jetting past her, I not only started telling myself that I must be a fast runner if this lady said I was, but I literally started running with slightly increased speed!
The result is that I embodied her observation.
There really is something robust and potent in positive words spoken, even random observatory words from a bystander.
This got me thinking back to when I was a little girl. I remember wanting my dad to be the one to notice that I was running fast or doing something that required an extra dose of physical strength or stamina. I wanted him to watch and be proud of me. Those two things always went hand in hand.
There was and continues to be something about my dad applauding me while declaring that I am fast and strong that seems to make it more valid. I thrive on his belief in me even when I don’t believe in myself.
Why is it that when a dad sees and affirms something that it’s worth a triple word score? I don’t know why that is but it’s got to be written down somewhere in the fathering handbook.
I think it must have to do with the fact that because dads are strong and invincible, if dad says it’s true then it has to be true. Let me say it another way: if the strongest and mightiest and most physically powerful member of the family affirms my strength and prowess, then maybe there’s a little bit of that in me. Maybe it means that I’m strong and powerful too.
Summing up, here’s what we as your daughters need from you Dad:
- We need you to watch us lift things that are heavy and endure things that are hard.
- We need you to show up, watch us, and cheer us on.
- We need you to tell us that we can do it.
- We need you to see us grow and succeed, try and fail, fall down and get up again.
- We need you to be proud of us…through the entire process.
- We need you not to expect perfection.
- We need you to know that we hear your voice from the stands (literally and figuratively).
- We need you to know that your absence shouts as loudly as your presence.
- We need you to believe in us when we’ve lost our way, helping us find our way back home.
And since a picture is worth a thousand words, this one says it all. Here is my friend Jay actively engaging with his precious daughter Ava. Both the picture and his corresponding words melt my heart: “Her biggest weapon on the field is laughter.”
When seeing this picture I can’t help but add: “How incredible that he’s close enough to hear.”
Dad, getting close can be a mixed bag. One time it will be her anger and another time tears. The next, brilliant insights followed with thought-provoking questions (that may push buttons…for both of you). Yet right around the corner you’ll be sprinkled with her laughter, often when you least expect it. That’s when you’ll be glad you scooted close.
Cheering from the stands is well and good. But always make sure you’re close enough to hear.
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