A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
It was supposed to be a loving, carefree Daddy-Daughter Date, with Elizabeth and I sharing fun and games with a dozen other daddies and their daughters from our church congregation. But somehow it turned into a somewhat awkward blind date.
And guess who was the one who couldn't see?
Our Daddy-Daughter Blind Date started out innocently - and successfully - enough with the Feet Picking Contest. All of the dads lined up behind a blanket that was pinned so all you could see was our feet. We took off our shoes and rolled up our trousers, and our daughters had to pick whose feet were whose. Then we traded places with our daughters, and we had to pick which pair of pre-adolescent feet belonged to our child. I could easily spot Elizabeth's feet because she was the only one in purple toe nail polish. And Elizabeth picked mine right away because . . . well, there weren't a lot of dads in the group with size 13 feet.
After our success with feet picking, Elizabeth and I were feeling pretty good about the three-legged race. And we would have done well in that, I'm sure, had I not stumbled and broken the string holding our legs together after two or three strides.
The big feet giveth, and the big feet taketh away.
Still, we were having a good time as we gathered for the final event before lunch. A number of cartoon pictures of dads doing different things had been scattered around the bowery in which we were meeting. The girls were instructed to look at the pictures, and pick the one that best represents what their fathers love most to do. I watched as Elizabeth moved carefully from picture to picture, picking each one up, studying it, looking at it, and then putting it down again. Finally she settled on one and came back to sit by me, smiling confidently.
The girls stood, one by one, and explained why they selected their picture. There were pictures of dads playing golf or tennis, or boating, or working in the yard, or playing with their children. Good stuff. Fun stuff. The girls said that these are the things their dads love best.
Then Elizabeth stood and held up her picture. It showed a dad dressed in a suit and tie, carrying a briefcase and smiling cheerily as he punches in at a time clock.
"This is my dad," Elizabeth said proudly. "He loves to go to work."
At first I was pleased - even flattered - by her choice. It is not a bad thing to be perceived as a hard worker and a dedicated employee. In the business world, you win awards for things like that. But somehow in this setting it was troubling. All of the other dads were good, hard workers, too, I was sure. But why was it that their daughters understood that there were other things in life that were more important to them than their work - and my daughter didn't?
"You DO work a lot," my wife, Anita, said when I asked her about it later.
"Well, yeah," I said. "But I don't do it because I love it. I do it because I love my family, and this is the best way I know how to provide for them."
"I know that," she said. "But kids don't look at it that way. They think that the best part of being an adult is being able to do whatever you want to do. And so they figure that if you spend so much time working, it must be because you want to."
Which is why I taped the cartoon picture of that smiling, working dad to the filing cabinet right next to my computer. It's there to remind me how I'm perceived by my children, and to motivate me to do something about changing that perception.
Now if you'll excuse me, Elizabeth and I need to practice for next year's three-legged race.
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--- © Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.