I wake often to her muffled cries, the ones wafting upstairs, through the hall, into my bed where it is still warm. Chris is down there, and I know he’s frustrated. I know he can’t figure out what she needs.
Is she hungry? She bored? Is she tired, having been up since 6:30?
Sooner or later, her cries become louder, more defined, as he brings her upstairs to me. I know he doesn’t like to admit defeat, to admit that being a dad is just not the same as being a mom. I know he wants to be a superhero. He is.
He just hasn’t had the opportunity to wear his cape yet.
As soon as Margot sees me, her cries turn first to whimpers and then to wails. She reaches for me as if this man who’s holding her is a stranger, as if he’s done it all wrong and she needs me to make it all better. Chris gives me the look, the one that lets me know he’s broken on the inside. He wants to know why she doesn’t love him. But she does. She just loves him in a different way.
Still, he chuckles as he hands her to me and her cries turn to giggles, coos. She smothers her face into my shoulder and then opens her mouth wide for a taste of my t-shirt. Chris says to me:
You know you’re loving this.
I look at him and give him the answer he might want to hear:
It’s so exhausting, being the only one she’ll take.
And it’s true, in a way. It does get kind of frustrating when all I really want to do is take a shower, or eat something, or pee, and Margot’s cries ring throughout the house because Daddy’s not good enough. I feel bad for Chris. I want her to accept him. I want her to be able to relax, fall asleep with him, take a bottle from him. But at the same time…I am okay with being her superhero.
Because he’s right. I am so loving this.
Today, Margot is my beautiful six-month old daughter who loves me for who I am. She sees me, with those big giant blue eyes, as the one who comforts her, the one with the nourishment, the one who is warmest, and smells just right. I love being able to engulf her with my arms, feel her fuzzy hair on the nape of my neck, and know I am her favorite. It sounds selfish, but I know it’s not, because one day she will not see me in this way. One day she is going to understand who Daddy is.
And then I will become a shadow.
Chris is a great dad. Not only does he give her the on-the-floor play time complete with kisses and “monster.” He also reads to her in high-pitched voices, straps on a dangerously feminine Boba carrier and wears her out in public, demands to push the stroller, and ignores when something has smeared glitter all over his Batman shirt (this is a giant feat, considering he is well-known in our family to be a sparkle-phobe).
So I know that it’s only going to be a matter of time before Margot discovers this world of Daddy, and my world becomes old news.
It’s a widely known fact that most girls become besties with their Daddy. This isn’t a new study, or something I read in Parenting magazine last week. The pictures of little feeties on polished black shoes as father-daughter practice for the many-years-from-then father-daughter dance at her wedding go way back, decades, a century.
One day Margot is going to wake up in her toddler bed, climb out, and crawl next to Daddy. Her little elbows are going to jab me in the side as she slowly edges me off the mattress, stealing the covers. When they wake, he will make her laugh. She will demand to be carried, hugged, snuggled, but only by him. He is her protector. He is her superhero. Daddy is strong. Daddy will make the monsters go away.
It will be both beautiful and lonely, bittersweet to say the least.
Then, my daughter will grow even older. She will show Daddy how tall she is compared to him, have him help her do math homework, build science projects with paper-mâché. He’ll make her chocolate milk–because he makes it better than Mommy–and then they’ll snuggle in front of a movie, hogging the couch, projecting me to the cold floor in front of them.
And when my daughter is a teen, she will argue with the both of us, but Daddy is the one who will give in. He will give her the keys, she will kiss him on the cheek.
Thanks Daddy. You’re the best.
Sure, I will have a role with my daughter. I will be able to watch her as she shops–because I will know nothing of her type of fashion–I will be able to help her with English, show her the best stories to read, talk to her about boys. But who will she want to hold her, to pick up the pieces when a bully pokes fun at her new shoes, when she gets an F on her spelling test, when a boy dumps her for the first time?
I am terrified that my snuggling moments are limited. She needs me today. She may not need me tomorrow.
But I will need her forever.