An Ode to My Daughter on Her 10th Birthday

By Glenn Sacks

“A man never knows what love is until he has a daughter.”

My neighbor Julio, who had two sons and then a daughter, told me this once as his little girl climbed into his arms.

I can understand. Ten years ago my daughter was born, the best Father’s Day present a man could ever have.

Strangely, she didn’t cry when she was born. They put her in an incubator and she could barely open her eyes under those bright lights. I looked down at her and told her, “I’m your daddy and I love you.” She looked up, confused and a little scared, but didn’t cry.

My wife describes this scene differently. She says my daughter took one look at me and thought, “Sucker! All I have to do is smile at this big, dumb guy and he’ll give me whatever I want.” Probably true.

Since that day I’ve had an opportunity most men don’t get – to be the primary caregiver for my child right from the beginning.

I didn’t want the job at first, but my wife wanted very badly to go back to work. We didn’t want to put our baby in day care, so she convinced me to try it. I resisted – it somehow didn’t feel as if I was doing anything, or at least not any work that I could quantify.

I called several baby care centers about their services. I didn’t want their services. I wanted to take the cost of baby care and add it to what I earned working part–time in the evenings so that in my mind I would be earning an acceptable “salary.” I was 34 at the time, and I look back in awe at my own stupidity.

Those times with my daughter – until she was 3 and went to preschool – were the greatest of my life. Of all the good things that one gets in life and never appreciates or rushes by, this one I was smart enough to stop and savor.

A decade later, this little girl couldn’t be more wonderful. She’s smart, inquisitive, loving, caring and affectionate. Most of all, she’s happy – when she’s bouncing around I sometimes tell her, “You’ve got your happy batteries on today.” She brightens up wherever she goes.

As a parent, have you had the following experience? The other day we were riding our bikes together and stopped at a pretty, grassy place surrounded by trees. Watching her I was overcome with my love for her, as I often am.

I called her over and tried to explain how special times like these are for me, how lucky we are to have each other and to have had these 10 years together. She hugs me and says, “I love you,” but there’s a part of me that wishes that for five minutes I could be talking to the adult version of my daughter. The 40–year–old mother who could for that moment understand how I felt as a parent, instead of how my daughter feels as a child.

My wife kids me that I want my girl to be little forever, and she’s not completely wrong. But I do want to see her grow up, in part because I want to see what she accomplishes in her life. I tell her that she’ll live in three centuries – the 20th, the 21st and the 22nd – and that she can do great things.

But while I’m happy to see her grow, it saddens me to see this special, unique era in our lives slip away. I wish I could somehow save and store the present and take it out once in a while. To preserve this special moment in time when my daughter is – happily, proudly and completely – daddy’s little girl.