by Dr. Michelle Watson Canfield
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I’d say this one is valued at a million.
When I first saw this photo posted on Facebook, it immediately melted my heart. There’s just something about seeing a daddy protecting his little girl that has a way of reaching in and touching a deep place in all of us.
For those of us who are daughters, many of us project ourselves into this photo and wish we were the one being held safely in the arms of a dad like this. Even when we’re all grown up.
And if this picture itself isn’t enough, here’s what the girl’s mom, Sarah, included as her tagline:
We got caught in a huge thunderstorm and flash flood warnings alerted on our phones. Addie was the only kiddo not covered in the stroller, but she loved getting drenched. She keeps talking about it to Tom: “We were in the rain together and you held me.” #nycsummer #dctrip
Oh my. Have there ever been more profound words spoken by a three-year old?
“Dad, we were in the rain together and you held me.”
The storm itself didn’t scare her.
Being unprepared for the crazy weather conditions didn’t prove to be too much for her.
Even standing on the unpredictable streets of Washington DC didn’t overwhelm her.
Why? Because her daddy held her. In the rain. Through the storm.
Dad, I know how much you loved the days when you held your baby girl tight as she was scared. Maybe you still tear up when you recall how she’d come running to you with her arms outstretched and wanted only you to comfort her. As you reached down to pick her up, you probably felt like your heart would burst with love as you held her close. Back then you would tell her that everything would be all right, because you were there.
But then she grew up and didn’t seem to need you as much. And it left you feeling a bit lost. You wondered how were you going to save the day if she found her own umbrella and no longer came running to you when her skies snapped, crackled, and popped.
It was then that you packed up your superhero cape. But along with that, a part of you shriveled up. You assumed that, since you weren’t being called to active duty in the same way you once were, now you were unnecessary.
Please hear me: Dad, we always need you.
You are always necessary.
Whether near or far.
Without you we struggle to feel safe in the downpour.
No matter what age we are.
The reality is that, even though we now are navigating storms on our own, we inwardly wish you could be there to shield us and do the heavy lifting when the big bad wolf comes to huff and puff and blow our house down. It would be easier to run to you every single time something hard hits out of nowhere. But as we both know, we won’t grow up if we keep doing that.
At some point we have to stand strong in the storms by ourselves.
And you can rest assured that we’ve taken what you’ve taught us and we forever hold it inside. All that courage you’ve instilled is now a part of who we are.
The thing is that our storms just look a little different now than they did when we were little. But they’re storms just the same. And we still need you to hold us tight, but with a bit more room in between us. Let me explain with a few more clarifying details.
Dad, you hold us safe in the storm and save the day when you:
- come home every night, making us feel safe and cared for.
- provide for us and work hard to do so.
- love us unconditionally even when we’re prickly and crunchy.
- tell us that a B is just as good as an A because we did our best.
(Believe it or not, we’re harder on ourselves than you can imagine and we need you to ally with the part of us that tried, not the part of us that was less than perfect. Disappointing you hurts more than the low grade.)
- spend time playing with us and doing life together.
- teach us how to drive without getting frustrated with us through the learning process.
- wipe our tears and tell us that he was a stupid boy who doesn’t know what he’s losing.
- help us fill out our FAFSA with patience and attention to detail.
- show mercy and grace at times when a consequence is deserved.
- make amends when you’ve said or done something that doesn’t align with your heart toward us.
The list goes on, but you get the gist.
We need you to hold us safe in the storm, whether the storm is on inside of us as the sky is falling or whether the downpour rages around us. When you’re calm and patient and loving and kind through it all, you are our safe haven.
In this story, a daughter felt loved and secure in her daddy’s arms. How I long for the day when every daughter will know that her dad will hold her safely during the downpours of life.
P.S. And just so you know, the dad in this picture told me: I will never forget that moment as long as I live. Dad, give your daughter a BIG HUG today, one she will feel to the core of her being.
Read more of Michelle’s articles here.
Dr. Michelle Watson Canfield is a licensed professional counselor in Portland, Oregon, founder of The Abba Project, a 9-month group forum for dads of daughters (ages 13 to 30), and author of Let’s Talk: Conversation Starters for Dads and Daughters and Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart (both available on Amazon and Audible). She also hosts a weekly radio program in Portland called “The Dad Whisperer,” which you can access as a podcast on her website and on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play Music. Visit drmichellewatson.com for more information and to sign up for her weekly Dad-Daughter Friday blogs. You can also follow or send feedback on Facebook and Twitter.
Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- What’s your favorite photo of you with one or more of your kids? What does it reveal about your relationship?
- What fathering-related photos or movies melt your heart?
- Can you remember receiving comfort as a child? How has that helped to shape you?
- When have you felt like a “superhero” as a dad? (You’re really just being an involved and caring dad, but you’re truly an everyday hero—especially to your kids.)
- Is it easy and natural for you to comfort your child, or does it stretch you?
- Find ways to be more physically affirming with your daughters and sons—in casual ways and in ways that are direct and meaningful.