Veteran journalist Ed Gordon wanted a son he could play sports with and through whom he could vicariously relive his youth. Instead, he got a daughter and discovered a love beyond anything he’d ever imagined.
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I always wanted a child. But, like many men, when I dreamed of becoming a father I dreamed of having a boy, a “little man” to follow in my footsteps. I wanted a son who would make me the proudest father in the gym after he hit the game-winning basket and then gave me a wink as he took the arm of the finest girl in the school. Yes, I fell victim to this all-too-common male fantasy. It never occurred to me that I might have a little girl.
When I found out that my wife, Karen, was pregnant, I was elated and ready to take on the task of fatherhood. There was one snag: The ultrasound showed that the blessing would be delivered in pink, not blue. I told my brother, who was already a father to a daughter, that another girl was on the way. He said, “You’re about to experience a love that is unmatched, a special unconditional love.” He assured me I’d get over my macho desire for a boy. I took his assurance, but I couldn’t help wondering why I had never dreamed of having a daughter.
Certainly I’ve always thought little girls are just as important as boys. I abhorred the practice in some societies of selling or killing infant girls because they weren’t considered to be as valuable as boys, who might grow up to help support their families. But I started to wonder if, unknowingly, I might have absorbed the idea of girls as second-class citizens. Well, if I did, I was about to get an education.
Taylor Nicole Gordon, now 12, has brought an immeasurable joy to my life, and no little hardheaded boy could ever take her place. Since the day she was born, I have not once lamented the fact that I didn’t have the next Michael Jordan or Colin Powell. In fact, I’ve embraced the idea that I may have the next Serena Williams or Condoleezza Rice.
I admit I might be more interested in taking a boy to football practice than I am in dropping Taylor off at her dance class. But I am just as sure that I couldn’t have been more pleased the day she nailed a dance routine she’d been having trouble with. Just hours before her recital, we’d been in the basement as she tried, frustratingly, to master the routine, and I guaranteed her she could climb this mountain. That night my pride swelled as I watched my daughter onstage hit every move. I knew that my chest wouldn’t have been any higher if she had just run an 80-yard touchdown.
Taylor and I have our special rituals, like our secret handshake, and the way we laugh together as we watch old movies like Uptown Saturday Night. We sit with our popcorn and she marvels at how young Bill Cosby looks in the movie, and sometimes she’ll ask me, “Daddy, did you really wear clothes like that?” or “Daddy, you had a big Afro, right?” She loves to hear me tell stories of the way I was back in the day, and I get a real kick out of the idea that she thinks her dad is entertaining. But I know these moments are fleeting. One day, with a touch of melancholy, I told her, “I hope you’ll always remember the fun things we do together.” She said softly, “I will, Daddy.”
In moments like these, I see that I mean as much to my little girl as she does to me. The excitement she shows when I tell her “Great job” or the disappointment she expresses when I’m less than thrilled with her behavior reveals that she feels that her daddy is the best man in the world. Her love makes me want to be just that. Her image of me is what I aspire and strive to be.
Too often, dads see themselves only as the protector. Now don’t get me wrong: I see that role as vital. (Are you little boys listening?) But we fathers must understand that we should be so much more than the strong, silent knights in the lives of our princesses. Fathers must not just protect; we must also teach our daughters to be as confident and capable as we would insist our sons should be. It’s about being there and being involved. Often it can be as simple as posing the question, “How was your day?” A typical preteen, Taylor makes a face when I ask this, but it lets her know that I’m interested. I can be tough on her too. My daughter complains about having a dad who polices what she wears, and yet, something in her voice tells me that she doesn’t really mind it. Her 12-year-old logic tells her that’s the way it should be, because that’s how it is when you have a father who cares.
This year, during our annual trip to the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, I introduced Taylor to the actor Will Smith. Will was gracious and kind to Taylor and her friends, and when we were leaving, he said to me with a laugh, “Do you have your shotgun locked and loaded?” That seems to be the question from many of my friends as Taylor blossoms into young womanhood.
My wife and I divorced a few years ago. In spite of that hardship, we’ve remained very much a family. We continue to support and love each other, and we both fully participate in Taylor’s life. But I’ve realized that our separation has heightened the importance of the bond that Taylor and I share. I also know the next few years will be filled with challenges as I watch my daughter transform from a child who still loves to be silly with her dad to a young lady figuring out her way.
As Taylor grows into the woman she is destined to become, I want her to know that I’ll always be proud of her efforts and that I’ll stand with her through everything. I want her to know she has a dad who is absolutely devoted to her and who will be forever grateful that he got to be the father of this amazing girl.
Get more information from award-winning broadcast journalist Ed Gordon on the African-American community and the positive relationship that can and should exist between fathers and daughters at daddyspromise.com.