Kiley Dorton - February 2, 2016
My daughter is 4 years, 9 months, and 18 days old. That’s not a day we celebrate with cake or cards.
I am 30 years, 1 month, and 11 days old. No cards for that, either.
That afternoon in August of 2010, the day that I found out I was going to be a father, time would no longer be measured in semesters or seasons, but days-until-the-due-date. I spent the next 234 days preparing for my daughter. Preparing to be a father. Trying to get ready. I was 24 years, 8 months, and 1 day old.
Every day mattered. Every day involved a new decision. A new need. We needed to pay for things. We needed to have a place to live. We needed a crib and sheets and bottles. I needed to learn how to swaddle.
Those 7 months and 22 days were stressful. I never once felt ready.
Yet I did feel something else. Something steady, distant. Like the sound of a stream just out of sight. The smell of spring while it’s still cold outside. Birds chirping at 5:15 in the morning while most of the world sleeps.
She taps me on the head to wake me up every morning. When I open my eyes, she’s there smiling just a few inches from my face.
She likes to help me make the coffee. She wants to press the button to grind the beans. She wants to pour in the water. She stands on a little stool.
When she gets home from preschool, she runs in to see me and jumps on my lap. I always ask her to tell me a few good things and a few bad things that happened that day. Sometimes she sings me a new song she learned.
She’s afraid of dark rooms. But she works up the courage to run by them. Her curiosity inevitably overwhelms her and she glances into the darkness, making herself even more scared.
Every now and then, when mom is on a trip, we’ll have a “Daddy Daughter Day.” We write our agenda on a piece of paper and draw little pictures of the things we want to do. It always involves eating lunch at Olive Garden. She loves Olive Garden.
She wants to move to Chicago because it has an American Girl store.
I wanted to teach her how to use a mouse and keyboard, so I used toy shopping on Amazon.com as a lesson. She quickly learned how to use the mouse, but also how to add toys to her wish list. A few weeks later, a big box arrived at our house. She had one-click purchased a $100 toy jeep for her doll. We let her keep it.
She wants to be a gymnast. And work at the online retailer Asos.com. And own a Chik-Fil-A. And have her own YouTube channel.
Every day when I’m about a minute away from dropping her off at school, I ask her if she’d like me to turn off the music for a little quiet time. She usually says no, then seconds later changes her mind. During her quiet time, I watch her through the rear-view mirror as she stares out of the window, thinking about something I’ll never know. As we pull up to her school, I ask her to tell me what I expect of her.
She recites, “Have courage and be kind.”
It’s been 4 years, 9 months, and 18 days since she came into my life.
Every one of the 1,755 days has brought its own set of small, joyful moments. Some disappear a few minutes after they started, others last for days or weeks. Some are distant memories, destined to be forgotten and replaced by more recent versions. Others will stick with me for the rest of my life.
The daily joys add up, remembered or not. They build on each other. The “love” that parents feel for their children is wrapped up in this ever growing set of daily joys. The two are like a river and a canyon, one endlessly flowing while the other grows ever deeper.
Today, I’m a father. Tomorrow, I’m a father. Forever, I’m a father.
And she, my daily joy.