"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" I was startled out of a deep sleep by my one-year-old
daughter who was hungry, gassy or maybe wondering what life had in store for her over the next 15 years or so.
My one-year-old daughter was startled out of a deep sleep by her middle-aged father who wasn't
hungry or gassy but was definitely wondering what life had in store for him 15 years or so years from now raising a teen-aged daughter!
As my wife and I introduced Alta Maria, as we had her older sister Mercedes Grace to a throng of
admirers, I was perplexed by the nature of the plaudits. "She's going to be stunning!" I politely mustereda thank you in response. "Es preciosa!" I graciously nodded a thank you, in Spanish, and forced asmile. "Look at those eyes! You're going to be in big trouble!" I impolitely rolled my eyes and grumbled that she's currently being fitted for a burka that she'll wear through college.
As we drove home from the gathering I took careful aim at my beautiful wife and shot, "It's your fault!"
Yes, Alta Maria and her sister Mercedes Grace indeed took after their attractive, ambitious, smart and charming mother and maybe even benefited from what few positive features I passed on through my dubious DNA. Impossibly long paintbrush eye lashes, smooth glowing skin and a luxurious head of shiny jet-black hair will mean trouble to the father of two eventual young women.
Especially a Latino father. So let me share my Father's Day message with all the papis out there ...
Coming to grips with fatherhood has been a difficult transition. Not the two-hour wake-up calls,
perpetually dirty diapers and playing male nurse to my heroic wife as she breastfed after months on bed-rest - that part of fatherhood has been a pleasure and blessing that even a verbose writer like me can't put into words. I truly see clear evidence of God as I look into my daughters' faces and my wife's sacrifice. What is difficult is that I can't watch coming-of-age movies anymore. Or even read the gossip columns.
Selena Gomez barely wearing a bathing suit on the beach with Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan's behavior frightens me more than threat of the return of bird-flu pandemic and those Kardashians ... .
I even find myself staring down raucous teen-aged boys in the mall the way the Navy Seals stare down what's left of Al Quaeda, wanting to eradicate them completely yet miffed by the sheer number of them that continue to be bred by some sick mastermind.
So I turned to my mentor and good friend, an avuncular Cuban-Irishman (calls himself Cubish) who in addition to a stand-up guy, is a stand-up comedian moonlighting as a nationally-renowned medical doctor. I went to Dr. Joe because his marriage had been a model and his daughter is exactly what I want my daughter to be - independent, smart, confident, and clearly doesn't suffer sophomoronic male antics. However, given his penchant for a one-liner, I expected to be pummeled with jokes but instead was met with a serious tone as he delivered the most sensitive, salient advice I'd heard on the topic.
"Whether you know if or not, you will be setting an example for your daughters, no matter what age she is, every single day with how you treat your wife," he stated and punctuated with a penetrating glare. "Treat your wife with respect in every way. Obviously by not raising your voice, cheating or name-calling, but more subtly by paying attention when she speaks to you, helping with household chores, and never talking down to her. Inherently, whether your daughter is six-weeks, six-months, six years or 16 years, your actions will dictate how she will expect to be treated by men for the rest of her life. And set an example for your son on how he needs to treat women!" (Yes, the third of my children is a boy.)
Fortunately, I've always been respectful of women, especially my wife, but the point was clear. A bar of behavior will be set and raised by my actions. "Men who are most fearful of their daughters being mistreated by men are simply projecting their treatment of women." He was right. The worst offenders are the most fearful. The good doctor continued, "Take your daughters on dates to the ice-cream store, open doors for them, pull out the chair when they sit down, ask them about how their days were and demonstrate the behavior she should expect and require from males for the rest of her life. And the most important thing is to be a present father. Be present in their lives."
Relieved after receiving my papi prescription from Dr. Joe, I rushed home where I shaved, showered, dressed up and prepared to take my two girls on a date. "Where are you going with the girls?" my wife asked, with a puzzled smile.
"On a date," I replied as I carried Alta Maria who was wearing one of those little Latino girl prom dresses sold at the mercado in shrink wrap like a true Latina and Mercedes Grace who picked out a multi-colored outfit which would have made Celia Cruz smile broadly. As I opened the front door, I turned back and startled my wife with a long, purposeful embrace and added, "I hope they both turn out just like their mami."