I can't believe Harper is three and a half months old already. Time has flown by at warp speed! Being Harper's Daddy is one of the highest honors I've had in my life.
But it hasn't all been sunshine and rainbows. There have been plenty of sleepless nights, screaming fits (from her, not me), and blowout diapers. (And people say, "Cherish every moment." That's hard to do at 2:30AM with a screaming baby who refuses to burp... or when I feel the warmth of her poop oozing out of her diaper and through my shirt. I'd really like to forget those moments... or at least let the fuzzy haze of memory soften the raw nerves exposed at those times.)
It's funny to think that we used to be so certain that Harper was going to be a boy. Now I can't imagine a day without my blue-eyed, smiling, whip-smart baby girl. She is the bee's knees and the cat's pajamas.
But there's one thing that I will never forget about being a first-time daddy and a daddy to a daughter, and that's the people who somehow seem disappointed or sorry for me that we did not have a boy. "Well, maybe the next one," they say. "You gotta have a boy."
Maybe the next one will be a boy. Maybe it won't. That is not for me to say, but what is for me to say is this letter to my daughter:
To my dear baby girl,
Thank you for showing me what true love is. From the first moment I held you in my arms, you were mine, and I was yours. My world was complete. I could wish for nothing more.
You were only a few days old when Mommy and I took you on one of your very first outings. (I think it was to the pediatrician's office, but I can't be sure.) We decided to stop and grab a burger for lunch, and while we were sitting there--our first time in a restaurant as a family of three--an older gentleman took a seat a few booths away.
"Your first?" he asked.
"Yes," I said.
"What did you have?"
(He couldn't see you because, being good first-time parents, we had you cocooned in your car seat beneath a cover to protect your skin from the Alabama summer sun.)
"A baby girl," I replied, a smile beaming from my lips, while my eyes drooped from a lack of sleep. And then I saw it--even through my tired eyes--a flash of disappointment.
"Well," he said, "maybe the next one will be a boy. You gotta pass on that family name, you know."
I don't remember what I said to that man (or to the others who said something similar over the following months), but I remember thinking, "Harper, you are more than enough."
I don't need a baby boy to make my life complete. I don't need a baby boy to pass on the family name. Even if our family name were to end, I would not regret having a baby girl. A name is just a name, and you are so much more than a consolation prize.
You are my daughter. My first born. My heart living outside my body. You are my greatest achievement in life. (And in case you one day have siblings, all of my children will be my greatest achievement in life. Dad's not playing favorites.)
You are going to grow up in a world that sends so many messages to girls that tell you that you aren't good enough: You aren't smart enough. You aren't pretty enough. You aren't skinny enough.
They. Are. Lies.
Don't let this world tell you that you can't do something because you are a girl. Don't let this world make you believe you aren't good enough because you are a girl.
You are not less. Your are not secondary. You are not a disappointment. You are who you were meant to be...and that is to be my daughter.
And above all else: Harper Grace Finklea, I want you to know that you are more than enough for me.
I will be proud of you, cherish you, and love you until my last breath leaves this temporary body. And you will live on--my heart beating outside my body.
You will be my legacy--not some last name passed down from a father to his sons and their sons. (Besides, most people can't pronounce or spell our last name correctly anyway. You're already going to spend years telling people, "It's a long E and a silent A.")
It is my hope that by the time you are old enough to read this (on whatever 3D, holographic computer you'll use in the future), you will think it is silly that your dear old dad had to write this down...because I will have raised you to know that you are a strong, smart, beautiful, capable, caring, compassionate woman...
who is second to none.
Love forever and always,