By Brandon Janous
It happened at dinner the other night. Not the actual “it” but a conversation about “it.”
My 10-year-old daughter: “Daddy, did you know that a girl in my class already started her period?"
Me: (After nearly spitting my wine all over the dinner table) “No, sweetie, I didn’t know this. No one told me that a girl in your class had started her period. How do you feel about this?”
Daughter: “Well, I don’t think I really want to talk to you about it because you’re not a girl, and this is girl stuff.”
Me: “Right, I totally understand, sweetie, but if you do, I can handle it because, well, I know some girls, and I know that every girl goes through this.”
Daughter: “I understand, daddy. Maybe one day. But not today.”
She then proceeded to spend the next 47 minutes talking about it. She told me that she was a little scared but also a lot prepared. She encouraged her little sister that it will be ok and that she has pads under her bed and in her backpack and that she will help her with it all when her time comes. She also let her little brother know that he’s lucky that he’s a boy and that he doesn’t have to worry about anything except hair growing in weird places and stinky armpits.
Needless to say, the other night at dinner, we had “the talk.”
She doesn’t think we did because “this is girl stuff.”
But we for sure had “the talk.”
I don’t know that I did it right or that I said all the right things. And to be honest, for the most part, I just listened. But the important part is that for 47 minutes, she talked.
I’m certain that this won’t be the last time she’s not ready to talk to me about something. And I realize that I’m not nearly as equipped as her mommy would have been for these types of conversations. It’s no secret that mommies are superheroes. They are just built differently and can handle anything that is thrown their way. And I’m not just talking about girl stuff; I’m talking about all stuff. I think it’s fair to say that God spent a little more time when he made mommies. They sacrifice their bodies, their sleep, their social life, eating hot meals, peeing alone, their memory, their energy, and so many other things the moment their child is born.
God didn’t make daddies that way. Sometimes I wonder if He took a shortcut when He made us. Maybe it’s different for some dads, but for me, it’s just not innate or in my nature to give up sleep, eat cold meals, pee with little ones accompanying me, have hard talks, and all the other things that mommies do so well. It’s work. It’s hard. And often, it’s just super uncomfortable. But over these last few years, I’ve learned that sometimes it’s in the super uncomfortable where the good stuff happens.
I’m not sure if it’s statistically proven, but it seems to me that girls are wired to talk. Maybe it’s just my girls. Maybe you don’t see that with yours. But mine can talk. And I think it’s safe to say that if I’m not there to listen, someone else will fill that space. That scares me to death, and I’m certainly not ready to allow someone else to take that role from me. There is, hands down, no other man in our daughters’ life that wields as much influence as we do. From a toddler to a teenager, we are the most powerful person in the world in her eyes. And as long as she’ll allow me to be that person, I’m going to do everything in my power to be just that.
As dads, we have the option to either live with the regret of conversations not had and the times we didn’t show up, or we can choose to be a constant, maybe even annoying presence in their lives, and not just in the easy and good times, but in the awkward and hard ones too.
To be honest, before my late wife passed away, I probably would have retreated to my man cave when hard things like “period talk” popped up. It would have been so much easier just to let my daughter and her mommy figure this stuff out. But looking back at it now, what an opportunity I would have missed. It would have been easy to run as fast and far away as I could. But it was awesome staying close, being present, and simply having a talk that she didn’t even know we had.
It seems like overnight, the piggybanks and pigtails have begun to fade away. My little girl isn’t so little anymore. She doesn’t hop up on my lap like she once did. She doesn’t need me to read her a bedtime story anymore. The hugs don’t last quite as long as they used to. And I understand that one day there will probably be a man that will enter her life and become more important to her than I am. A person that she will share all the hard stuff with. A person that will inevitably take my place. Today isn’t that day. And for now, I get to be that person.
And what I notice, now more than ever, is that she still wants to know that I’m there. Whether it’s while we watch a movie, take a quick trip to the grocery store, or even during our bedtime routine. I’ll catch her glancing over at me, just to make sure I’m there. She’s not looking for words; she’s just looking for me. Because “me” is enough.