Happy Birthday to my first love, my first hero, my first protector and provider. It really is hard for me to put into words the impact that my dad has had in my life, as I write and delete sentences over and over, trying, and failing, to give credit where credit is due (see also: Mother’s Day post tomorrow :)).
When I was in third grade, I wanted to play baseball. We were (are) and Atlanta Braves family (my mom even took my brother and I out of school for the Braves parade back in 1991, when the Braves went from worst to first, and I wore my puff-painted Braves Keds that I made myself :)), and I didn’t want to play softball like all the other girls, but I wanted to play baseball. And my dad didn’t tell me no. He did suggest that I try softball. If I really hated it, he said, then I could play baseball. But just try softball first, and then we’d go from there. It ended up that I loved softball, and played all through my youth. And years later, my dad told me that he was so glad that I accepted his compromise, and was willing to try softball. Because he just couldn’t tell me that I couldn’t play baseball.
And that’s just the thing.
My dad is very traditional, very conservative. But there has never been anything that my dad thought I couldn’t do. I have never, ever felt the struggle that some girls grow up feeling, that because they are a girl, that less is expected of them, and in turn they end up feeling less valuable or lack the confidence to reach their full potential. My mom, of course, was always my number one fan, and was always supportive and full-on girl power, but my dad was the quiet confidence behind the scenes. Women are supposed to be supportive of one another, building each other up and being there for one another, but when you have the support of the most influential and most important man in your life? It gives confidence to the spirit of an impressionable little girl that you just cannot replace, and you can’t take away. My dad provided that for me when I was growing up and still gives me that assurance over and over as an adult. Because my dad believes in me and believes that I can do anything I really want and put my mind to, I believe that I can do anything, and I can achieve any goal that I really step up and fight to accomplish. My dad did that for me as a little girl. And he continues to do it for me as an adult. Just recently, I was telling him that I was thinking about getting a saw for some DIY projects that I want to tackle. Not once did he bat his eyes or chuckle to himself that his girl wanted to buy a saw. He explained what each type of saw does and which one I would be best served to purchase for what I needed it for. He is supportive. He is encouraging. He is always, always there when I need him. He is fair, he is hard working, he is irreplaceable. He’s my dad, and he has always believed in me and believed in my dreams and my aspirations. He has always made me feel like I was important and special and smart, and like I could do anything.
So, Happy Birthday, Dad, and thank you. Thank you for giving me the courage to do scary and hard things, to make big decisions, and to never doubt myself, since you have never doubted me. I love you very much, and am so proud to be your daughter.