There’s nothing quite like a daughter’s wedding to make a dad reflect on his parenting. As I hustled around the church helping to get last minute details set, I couldn’t help but think about the past twenty-two years! So many memories… mostly wonderful… a lot of humorous ones… a few really hard ones… but they flooded my mind as I prepared to hand my daughter, Dani, off to a man who just a year and a half ago, was a total stranger. Thankfully, I don’t have a lot of regrets; but to me she was still my little girl.
I can relate to the dad in the Subaru commercial. In the ad he’s giving his daughter her last instructions before he hands her the keys and she drives off. In the beginning of the commercial it shows him talking to a little girl about six years old as she fastens her seatbelt. When he finally hands her the keys you see she’s actually a young woman of driving age. For dads our daughters will always be our little girls – even when they become beautiful young woman.
So as I walked down the isle and memories flooded my mind; I can tell you there were at least three things I was glad I did before I gave my daughter away. Obviously, I’ve spent her lifetime trying to teach her things before she left my home. I would consider many of them critical. But here are three I was especially glad of:
1) She is loved unconditionally! I didn’t always do this right. Too many times, I know she felt like the level of my love was attached to her performance. Sadly, my frustration over her struggles in math conveyed the wrong message to my little girl. In my exuberance to help her improve her basketball skills I know there were times she felt like I’d love her more if she’d score more points. Trust me I’ve apologized and repented many times over the years for inadvertently sending the wrong message.
Thankfully, I also got it right a few times. For every dad, every parent for that matter, it’s important you get it right. What I mean is, life is going to provide you with a few key opportunities. Maybe it’s when your child makes a mistake, or struggles to succeed, and you are confronted with it. How you respond will send a message to your child.
Get it right!
Be on alert for those moments when you can communicate to your child, I love you. If you have to – practice saying it into the mirror. But learn to say it without the condemning look we can so often give. Make sure she knows your love isn’t any less just because she got an F or she didn’t score any points. It doesn’t mean we stop teaching and coaching; it simply means she knows she’s loved unconditionally.
2) Never give up! I remember the time Dani was struggling with school, sports, and work. She was frustrated and feeling so overwhelmed. As a parent we often want to rescue our children. The problem with rescuing is we send the message, I don’t think you can do it. Instead, beginning early and often, we need to send the message you can do it, just don’t give up! I know her marriage is going to be awesome. But since I’m married, I also know there are days when her marriage is going to be awful. I can’t protect her from that and I wouldn’t want to. Instead, I’m confident because I know she will not give up – on her marriage, on her kids, or on her life.
3) To love God! Unfortunately one reality I had to come to grips with, not just on her wedding day, but much earlier in her life, was the fact that I would let her down. As her dad for twenty-two years I had let my girl down on many occasions. And the truth is I will let her down again in the future. But in Deuteronomy 31 God reminds us, “he will never leave you nor forsake you.” I’m so glad Dani knows, as she begins this new chapter of her life, there is someone bigger than dad, bigger than her husband, that loves her and is for her and will never let her down.
I felt really good about the young man I was handing Dani off to. But my real trust and confidence is knowing that I’m handing her back to God. She was never really mine. God entrusted her to me for a season and now I symbolically was handing her back. So all I had to do as I walked down the isle, was to picture her new husband Jonathan standing at the front of the church, with Jesus next to him, ready to accept their beautiful bride.
One last thing, this day came way quicker than I ever thought it would. Whether you choose these three things or a different three. Start today preparing for that day so when you are walking your baby down the isle, you can say, “I’m so glad I did these three things with her.”