Receiving and giving gifts are some of the most cherished and memorable occasions in a human being's life. Thinking back, the best birthday gift I ever received wasn't even on my birthday.
Rather, it was on the day my blessed daughter came into the world, forever changing my life.
Without a doubt one of the greatest experiences of my life was becoming a father. I started spending meaningful, quality time with her the moment we first met. Auria was a sweet natured angel from the beginning of our relationship, and I'm not exaggerating when I say I can hardly recall a time when she was crying or whining for anything. There was no such thing as the terrible twos. Bath time at night became a ritual we both enjoyed, our imaginations running like water. Us playing with the shampoo bubbles and turning them into imaginary animals was just a start.
My daughter told me recently that she cherishes the following note that I wrote to her many years ago, it reads:
"Honey, I am with you, around you, for you, and beside you - always, Dad."
Writing that note to her was a gift, and the way she recalled it so lovingly was the present she gave back to me.
As the years have gone by, I have been blessed to spend even more time with my daughter since she is an only child. Some of my most profound memories have been nurturing her and watching her evolve. For example, at bedtime on most evenings, we would cuddle up and read one or two stories; then we would play "boat" before saying goodnight. "Boat" meant bouncing vigorously on the bed so that the mattress shook like a fragile vessel in a stormy sea. Auria would scream, "Shark!" or "Man overboard!" and we would peer over the side of the boat into the violently churning ocean waves. I am so grateful for these wonderful experiences that allowed me to feel and enjoy being a kid one more time, inspiring me to be silly again -- I was never bored. In fact, I felt transformed.
Sometimes we played "dolls" together -- with Barbie and Ken and the pink Cadillac. Later, we graduated to the Spice Girls dolls. She thought Posh Spice was superior, I defended the excellence of Baby Spice. We "argued" back and forth which Spice Girl was the best. During these games, I was filled with pride and unconditional love for my daughter. I wasn't forcing myself to play along for her benefit -- I was actually having fun! I was immersed in the play while sharing these hilarious moments of imaginative creativity. We would invent new games and come up with our new rules.
While we were out shopping one day she saw a T-shirt that said, "I am Daddy's Girl." I was delighted to purchase it for her and she was even more excited to wear it to school. My relationship with my daughter is the gift that keeps giving.
I am grateful for my child for so many reasons. Having a constant companion, especially when she was a child, ensured my home was never lonely or quiet. As I mentioned before, the entertainment value of a child is immeasurable. In all of the time spent together I was fortunate to see so much of myself reflected back.
Values, knowledge and experiences flow both ways between parent and child. One hopes that we have inspired the best of these in our children; so that when they go out into the world they can both reflect and inspire new ideals. It is a two way street between parent and child. This is another added benefit of parenthood. Once we become parents our mission in life becomes clearly defined.
My daughter is my legacy!
This blog post is part of a series for HuffPost Gratitude, entitled 'The One Thing I'm Most Thankful For.' To see all the other posts in the series, click here To contribute, submit your 500 - 800 word blogpost to firstname.lastname@example.org.