5 Lessons My Father Taught Me That Have Shaped Me As a Woman
By G. Ann Wilkerson
“You look beautiful.” This was the statement made by my father about a month ago, after I showed him my newest headshot photos. In the past, I had been told that I was attractive, and for the sake of being honest over modest, I do believe this to be true. However, never before that moment had such a statement had an effect on me. My father, my Daddy, called me beautiful.
The moment took me right back to a spring morning in 1987. My mother had just finished doing my hair in preparation for my kindergarten pictures. A pink and white taffeta dress with white lace stockings and pink Goody barrettes to match, I was the poster girl for eighties fashion. My mother was putting together the finishing touches, placing my “Gee Gee” earrings in my ears, when my father came into the room. His smile said all that a “Daddy’s Girl” needed to hear, “Look at my pretty, Dau Dau.” That was it. It was confirmed. On that day, I was the prettiest girl in the world.
Tragically, my mother died due to illness five years later, leaving my two younger brothers and I in the care of my now single father. The years to come proved to be trying for our entire family. But, despite the challenges we faced, we never stopped loving each other or growing together as a unit. This is certainly true in the case of the relationship between my father and I, sometimes strained, always strong. Throughout everything, he has been my provider, my teacher, supporter and now more than ever, my friend.
I don’t take for granted that I have my father in my life, moreover, I recognize that having him as one of my closest friends is a blessing. Unfortunately, so many women and girls are living without their fathers. In homage to my father, and the thousands of Black fathers that go unrecognized every day, I have compiled a list of lessons that he instilled in me.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am one of the most outspoken women you will ever come across. My father never silenced me or taught me to hold my tongue. Raised with my two younger brothers, I naturally acquired many of the traits often reserved for males, like aggression, pride and a penchant for competition. In many ways, my father has given me my voice. This gift has allowed me to become a leader, a writer and a formidable adversary, if you choose to challenge me.
I can do most things for myself (and the things I can’t do, I call my Daddy for). As Black women, we are both praised and admonished for our independent demeanors and letting someone else take care of us. Nonetheless, the benefits of being independent outweigh the detriments. My father taught me to take care of myself and to never put myself in the position of having to rely on someone. But, that he, and any worthy man, would and should be there if I need him, and that it is ok to ask.
My Daddy loves me, more than any other man could. But, most certainly, no more than I could or should love myself. In addition to my brazen demeanor, I attribute my confidence to my father. Always supportive of my dreams and encouraging of my ambitions, he has never held his tongue when it came to bragging or boasting about his daughters. With his high regard for me, I have no choice but to believe his words and live into them. I am great, beautiful, strong and talented. I know this because he told me so.
His Replacement Has Got to Be Great
He has to be a provider, protector and friend. When you are given a prototype, it isn’t really hard to find what you want. Having my father fill essential roles in my life has raised my expectations in regards to who shall become his replacement as the number one man in my life. And though I have stumbled and chosen wrong, my father has helped me learn from my mistakes, with his candid words and loving reminders of my worth.
I have always wanted to be a writer. And when I announced this to my father, I was overwhelmed by the abundance of support he offered. My number one fan, reading every piece I’ve ever had published, sharing articles and bragging about me consistently. I keep going and reaching because he keeps pushing.
There are many other lessons to be learned and conversations to be had between a father and daughter, particularly around money, men and faith. The preceding were just a few. Nonetheless, I just wanted to give a little credit to the man and men in my life that are truly “fathering.”
Women, love your fathers, befriend your father and, in many cases, forgive your father. If he is reaching out to you, reach back. You may not see or believe it now, but a father’s love is essential to the life of a woman. You most certainly can be fine without it, but imagine the greatness you can obtain with it.
Does this list resonate with you? Why or why not? Are there any items you believe should be on this list?G. Ann Wilkerson is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Indiana University. She is of Jamaican and African American heritage and a native Philadelphian. A youth worker by profession, but, writer by trade, her works include social commentary on urban culture, black women and African American youth. She is currently working on a book about black women amidst a Quarter Life Crisis. Check out her blog Average Black Chick.
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