Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thirty dollars

    Gracie is at such a great age.  Part of me wishes I could freeze her in time so that she always tells me what she said this morning as I left for work, "Daddy, I need to give you a kiss because I will miss you so much."  I know that soon it will be more common to hear, "You are ruining my life."  All I want is to keep her my little girl as long as possible and all she wants is to grow up 'big like mommy'.  She will win that contest; she has time on her side.  I will just have to take and enjoy each day that I have with her until some lousy punk steals her away from me.
     This morning as I brushed my teeth, she walked into the bathroom with her pink pajamas and pink frilly tutu.  Walking past me she went to the scale, stepped on and stared at the digital flickering numbers for a a few seconds then got off walked over to me and said very proudly, "Daddy, I'm thirty dollars.  I'm getting so big."
    Thirty dollars?  Hugely undervalued. At that moment I would have given any price for that little girl.  Thirty dollars.  If only.  I start adding up the cost of raising 5 kids.  How much for food, for clothes, for school, for eye surgeries, for broken arms, for college, for weddings.  The practical, fiscal side of me starts to panic a little.  I look at little Grace as she dances off in her tutu.  Here is one of my five greatest treasures.  Every other investment I make will all be spent and gone once I leave this earth, but they will be there passing on to their children whatever impressions I leave on their lives.  They are the most important thing I can invest in.
    I wonder, how do you place a value on a child's life, or any life for that matter?  I ride the time machine in my mind forward a few years, and there will be a thousand voices telling my little girl that value is indeed measured on a scale.  Magazines and movies tell our little girls that weighing more or less than perfection lessens your worth as a person.  Others will tell her that her value lies in her beauty, or the clothes she wears, or the people she hangs out with or doesn't hang out with.  She will be pressured to believe her worth is based on popularity.  There will be many scales that she is expected to stand on so that others can judge her value as a person.
     I know better.  I know that she is a priceless treasure and that she should never sell herself out for any price.  How do I teach her that in the few years left in which she will listen to me?  She scares me, because she is different from my boys.  I don't know if I have the necessary skills to raise a daughter.  I know one thing though.  A daughter needs her father to love and cherish her.  I've dealt with enough families to see that girls crave acceptance from their daddy and that those who never receive it will often search everywhere to find it in some other relationship.  I've seen the broken spirits of women who have sold themselves out because they thought they finally found someone who appreciated their true worth only to find that she was just another one of his conquests.  I've seen women who have been crushed so many times that they no longer believe they have any value left.
     I won't let that happen to any of my children, but especially my Gracie.  I want to make an effort to tell her every day how special she is.  I want to nurture her strengths.  I want to love her enough to discipline her when she needs it, but always let her know that no matter what, she is my precious little girl.  That won't change even as she grows into a young woman.
    I want to strive to be a better husband to my wife because I want her to know how a man should cherish his wife.  I want to do such a good job that she will not settle for anything less in her future husband.  I will have to work at it, because I often fail at treating my wife like she deserves.  It will mean learning to listen better, learning to be less critical, sacrificing more of what I want.  I promised my father-in-law that I would take care of and love his little girl.  I believe that the  best way to teach Grace that she is valuable is to show her how much I love and value her mother.  I will fail often.  I'm not the most sensitive guy in the world.   When I do lose my temper or become to harsh or critical, I want to be humble enough to admit it to my family  and show them that the only real failure is the failure to keep trying.
    Thirty dollars?  Priceless.  That's what she is to me.  How do you put a value on a human life?  We humans are poor judges of what is valuable.  We prize what is most transient and ignore the eternal.  I want my children to know the value of their lives and to respect the value of the lives of those around them.  I want them to see past the lies of those who airbrush smiles on the empty lives of celebrities.  I want them to know that the Creator of the universe thought them so valuable as to bleed and die so that they might know True Love.  I will do my best to show them that same kind of love.  I will pray that as they grow and leave my protection, that they will ignore the meters and scales the world tries to measure them with.
     Gracie, you are infinitely valuable just because you are my daughter.  Never forget that.