To My Little Girl – You’ve Read This Before
I’m watching your mother get ready – I mean get dressed – as we prepare to go out. Sorry; you’re right. There’s little difference between ‘getting ready’ and ‘getting dressed’. The need to be clear would – should make you understand; as few words can, the jumbled state of my mind when I was writing this.
Well, I’m watching your mother prepare for a night out with me, and I have to tell you – it’s one of the most humbling things I have ever been privileged to witness; the simplicity of a woman getting pretty for her man.
I like how she smiles at me over her shoulder every now and then; as though asking softly; Like what you see?
She is beautiful; your mother is.
But this is why I brought that memory to the fore of this letter; I’m sure you remember that my sister got married pretty recently – of course you remember. You were the prettiest bridesmaid there.
I was watching on the sidelines – and I realized one day I’m going to give you away to another man like me; yet very much unlike me, I hope. Because as somehow as that – or this – may sound, I hope you don’t marry a man like me. A man who left his wife for some ‘irreconcilable differences’ nonsense. A man who’s quite the failure at playing ‘dad’.
A man who failed – is failing – at his most sacred responsibility.
Or maybe I assume too much. I am wrong; for already speaking marriage to you at so early an age. You might grow up and decide marriage is not for you. You have every right to do that – there’s nothing wrong with it. Marriage; as I am sure you would have realized from watching me most especially, isn’t for everyone.
What is most important for me, as your dad is your happiness. However you decide to define that; as long as it doesn’t interfere with another person’s life, is mostly up to you.
Having said that, I realize a very profound truth;
Sooner or later, I’m going to have to give you away.
Maybe not to another man. Maybe to your dreams, your passions – or maybe you’ve just grown too old to sit on my lap and listen to me drone on and on about Dapo and his problems, life, romance and stories that touch. Whichever, whatever, I’m going to have to give you away.
Sooner or later.
So what I should be doing right now is giving you the tools you need to survive out there in this cold, bleak world that has changed so much from what it was; some for the better, most not so much. And one of the things you need most to do that; is for the first man in your life to be there to hold your hand, to guide and answer many of the many questions you have and keep having.
Baby, I can’t even apologize. I wouldn’t dare.
I remember when I called to cancel our night out on my birthday – I particularly remember how you sighed and said, “It’s okay dad. I’m used to it.” Honestly, I would have preferred a slap from you. I would have been incensed and angry at that – but I wouldn’t have felt the degree of shame and self-loathing I did. I got off the phone on my birthday feeling like killing myself and then –
I messed up. I’ve been messing up for a while now.
You know, every time I do something like that, every time I see or hear the tears you bravely try to hide whenever I disappoint you, every time I hear the joy in your voice when you scream ‘daddy!’ – every time I have to crush that joy and replace it with something sad and dark – I die a little. I lose some more of what holds me together.
I use my sad and lonely existence as a barrier to forming close friendships; because I had to learn fast and early on that everybody leaves. Everyone goes away eventually – therefore forming deep bonds with other humans is doomed to failure – even before you begin.
But that’s an excuse that’s rapidly wearing thin. Because; as I have had reason to admit more than once lately, while it’s true that people leave, they also leave because you push them away. So in protecting myself, I am an unwitting catalyst of the same thing that makes it necessary to protect myself.
I hope I have not confused you.
But what’s more appalling in the midst of this vicious circle?
Why would I want to protect myself from my own child?
I have become quite selfish, is what I have discovered. In my maddening obsession with protecting myself from heartbreak and sorrow – because I am narcissistically thinking I am the only one who has gone through such – I have learnt to think only of myself.
To the point I’m afraid to spend time with my own daughter.
I wonder what the point of this is. It’s not like I’m ready to change. It’s not like I’m going to come and marry your mother again and then we’ll become one large happy family and ride off into the sunset, while John Legend music plays in the background and the cinema crowd is hiding more than a few tears.
No. Real life doesn’t play out like that.
I know; you’ve grown quite a bit between this and the first letter. Sadly, nothing has changed much despite all the promises I made and the letters I wrote or have written. In fact; this letter is almost the same as that one – word for word. Still telling the same story and making the same empty excuses.
So what is the point of this?
It’s just a little something to acknowledge that I do you wrong; and I know I do you wrong. It’s a memo of me admitting that I’m not quite the man I make myself out to be; no matter how hard I try, if I keep trying to excuse my inadequacies my efforts will never count.
And it’s just a small reminder that I do love you.
I love you.
I know; they say actions speak louder than words – but; as you will undoubtedly grow up to find out, if you ever have to let someone you love go, words sometimes speak louder than actions. It’s hard to believe I ever loved – I love – your mother, judging by the way I walked away all those years ago. Yet here I am, trembling like a sixteen year old on his first date, watching your mother get ready. I also happen to be a writer, baby so I do understand the potency of words.
And this is me saying; in spite of all my misdoings;
I Love You.