Father Daughter Acts

The following was written in response to a request to think about dramatization of the relationship between fathers and daughters. It's a reflection more than anything else, and a heartfelt one at that. Perhaps it will resonate with the fathers and daughters out there.

When a daughter is born, her father naturally fashions his own dream of how the next 20 plus years will play out. It’s a daydream, a conscious dream that he can make approach perfection. If he’s lucky he controls the contours of that dream for a number of early years, but the dream gets altered by moments beyond his control. Those moments grow in importance and number as the years go by, and soon the daughter seeks an identity separate from the one tied to her father. She goes on a journey. Her new life becomes the journey as the world intrudes on the dream.

Fathers respond in different ways to their daughters’ journeys. There aren’t any guidebooks and much of how fathers act is pure improvisation. Some fathers get out of the journey’s way, content with thinking they’ve provided all the guidance they can. Others, unable to see their daughters separate from their own years-long dream, refuse to let the journey unfold by itself. They are jealous of the journey and try too hard to clear obstacles and the like as they attempt to manage and manipulate the journey’s direction. Others misunderstand the journey. They see it as a personal rejection that breeds hurt and anger.  The journey may take their daughters farther away than they’d ever imagined. The distance can be the result of many things, the fault of both, the fault of neither, or simply a natural process of searching and growth.

As daughters settle into who they are, fathers get a wonderful chance to welcome this familiar but new woman back into their lives. The particulars of each experience are unique, but the dream is usually the same – fathers and daughters both want a shot at finding a new way to love each other. The road back can be a new struggle for both, its contours shaped by the distance they allowed to grow between them, or it can be the simple result of aging, of forgiving, and of understanding.  Some fathers and daughters don’t make the journey back; the distance is too great, the effort required too painful. Others do and reap the reward of an ever-evolving love that spans two eternally intertwined lives.