I’m glad we didn’t have company over.
It was a normal evening, after dinner, and we’re moving at the usual snails pace toward bedtime. Our 3-year-old daughter has been a toilet using rockstar for the most part, but naturally, one of the skills not yet mastered is the wipe.
From the bathroom, she exclaims with heartfelt fondness in her voice “Daddy, you’re my favorite butt wiper.”
Of all the things to be famous for, I guess that’s one. My wife and I giggle each time we think about it, or when someone adds a reaction on Facebook (because you know it went up immediately). Then I started to pay attention more to the first four words than the last two, and decided that there is nothing more affirming for a daughter to declare to her daddy than, “You’re my favorite” anything.
That’s something deep in the heart of a little girl. She’ll find an object of that affection. Our example, our offer of both strength and tenderness, and our focus on her when its her time make all the difference for her little soul. Sometimes it gets misplaced, like after my parents split when my sister instinctively sought attention from guys. Or, we can step in and step up, showing her how she should be treated. We can choose to not shrink and instead claim the honor it is to be the object of adoration for someone.
Here’s what that doesn’t mean; that doesn’t mean perfection. We get scared we’re going to screw them up if we do or say the wrong thing. Moms feel this all the time, hence the hundreds of blog posts written about mom guilt. The thing is, despite the guilt, moms tend not to check out. Dads for some reason tend to death grip our pride and disengage rather than fail. We hear lots of talk in business and entrepreneurship these days about failing well and learning from it. Same idea in dad-hood.
I never had aspirations of being the best butt-wiper on the planet, but I’ll take it. And if you get a bit psychological on the bit, there aren’t many experiences that are more vulnerable than that. Maybe you’ve seen some of the research on the power of vulnerability. This is everyone’s initial state in the world – completely dependent vulnerability. The longer our sons and daughters feel safe here the better. They’ll try more, risk more, and learn more if they’re confident in our strength underneath them.
While this story originated in the bowels of the upstairs bathroom, I’ve been paying attention to how I’m her favorite [fill in the blank]. I’m going to try to grab the small things rather than a big perfect thing. As a little dreamer, you’re not going to be her favorite accountant or business analyst or engineer. You’re going to be her favorite mode of transportation up and down the stairs, her favorite target for an extra treat, and her favorite arms during any scary thing.
Be her favorite something. It’ll make all the difference.