I don’t know if you’re a Dustin Hoffman fan, but I’ve loved his work ever since he took on the role of an autistic savant in Rain Man back in the late 80’s. He has an extraordinary gift of fully stepping into the characters he portrays, which was made evident when he donned the quirky role of a 243-year-old eccentric toy store owner in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.
I absolutely love this movie and want to take you beyond his character for a moment to focus on his young apprentice named Molly Mahoney, played by the beautiful Natalie Portman. Though an accomplished pianist, she lacked confidence in her musical abilities and is forced to come face-to-face with her debilitating insecurities.
Described as “needing an opportunity to prove that she is more than she believes,” Mr. Magorium creates a so-called “opportunity” for Molly to embrace her inner strength and innate potential by announcing that he’s retiring and leaving the toy store to her. He wants her to rise to the occasion and discover what he has seen in her all along.
But instead of pushing through her immobilizing fears, she walks away from the opportunity. She doesn’t believe she has what it takes to succeed. (This is a common reality for most girls, especially during adolescence, when they don’t know how to fully stand in their truth…and that’s when they need more support, which is where you come in, dad.)
As Molly wrestles with finding her place in her own life story, she turns to an accountant named Henry (played by Jason Bateman). and with her eyes cast downward, asks him, “What do you see in me?”
“Being the sparkle in someone’s eye” is something my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Jim Friesen, talks about in his book, The Life Model: Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You. He says that some neurologists describe this concept as our most basic human need: Not only to be that sparkle, but to feel the joy inside when someone lights up upon seeing us.
Because little children can feel this joy in loving relationships, Jim says that much of life is spent trying to reconnect with that feeling. Life makes so much more sense when people around us reflect back the authentic joy that comes from simply seeing us and being with us. There is healing power in this life-breathing exchange.
Jim goes on to say that because joy is relational, it is also a contagious experience. Joy is produced when someone is “glad to see me,” which then stirs up a bit of joy in me. And when my joy is returned, there is an increase in the giver’s joy as well. It’s a reciprocal dynamic.
This experience goes back and forth at amazingly fast rates—six cycles per second in a nonverbal, face-to-face exchange—all the time creating a stronger joy interaction between both people. Isn’t that incredible? Former Abba Project Dad Steve told me this is one of the most powerful things he’s ever heard as he seeks to relate even better to his two adult daughters.
So what does this mean for you as a dad with your daughter?
Here are some important things for you to know:
She is innately wired with the need to be the sparkle in someone’s eyes.
If not yours, she will be drawn to someone, anyone, who will light up upon seeing her.
Your visual delight upon seeing her will deposit worth and value into the core of her being.
If you actively reflect back to her the joy you feel when you look into her eyes, it will build her self-esteem as a gift from you to her.
I believe that every girl needs to be the sparkle (or the light) in her dad’s eyes. You were the first man who saw her and knew her and embraced her and celebrated her. She will turn less to the counterfeit if she has experienced the real thing with you.
Connect with your daughter today and let her know that you delight in her, whether in person or through a text or phone call.
And if the two of you are separated by distance, such that she can’t watch you light up when seeing her today, at least she’ll be able to read your words if you write them. Your written words will tide her over until the next time you have your face-to-face interaction.
Let the life-breathing exchange begin!