One night last week at bedtime, my five-year-old daughter wrapped her arms around my husband and me into a tight embrace and said, “Oh I love you BOTH SOOOOO MUCH!” She squeezed us with all her might and looked my husband square in the eyes and said, “But mommy is one number higher than daddy. I love you the same, but she is one higher.”
She said this with what seemed like an invisible wink or her fingers crossed behind her back. In actuality, I know it’s the other way around daddy is definitely a few rungs higher on the ladder, and I’m OK with that; I know what it’s like to be a daddy’s girl. I can’t compete with biology or with nature and I certainly can’t contend with my daughter’s dream father. (Yes I’m biased and I’m so narrating so it’s a win-win for me.)
My husband saw her first, just after she was cut from my gut during an emergency c-section. He looked at her, and by the tone of his voice, I knew he was gone. He dove head first into those big brown eyes and she took over as the master puppeteer of his heart strings. I could hear it in the tone of his voice from the first two words he said to her, “Hi Mackenzie.” We hadn’t settled on a name until he declared it so in a moment of mutual adoration where our daughter finally met the muffled voice she had been hearing on the other side of the womb. When daddy’s eyes connected with hers, the earth stopped spinning for an electric instant, as if they touched knuckles, and said, “Wonder Twins Activate.” These two were cut from the same genetic quilt. It’s as if nature wanted me to understand my mother-in-law’s plight and now I’m having the experience of raising a female version of my husband.
My husband is an artist and a performer. When I met him, he was a professional clown working at a children’s birthday party. We ended up walking out together at the end of the party and my first question to him was, “What do you really do?” His answer was longer than I anticipated. “This is my day job; I entertain sick children in hospitals every week and I’m a professional photographer. I’m also a painter, a sculptor, and a writer.” Translation: He was a New York City actor.
Being happy comes easily for my professional clown husband. I, on the other hand, am filled with Russian genetics, which secrete a perpetual dose of pragmatic buzzkill to even a perfect rainbow. My daughter, luckily, mimics his demeanor, waking up every morning as the president of the Glee Club of Life.
She doesn’t just does dress up for the day, she dresses up for bedtime, donning a matching tiara, necklace, bracelets, slippers to coordinate with her pajamas. She prefers to be announced: “Queen Mackenzie, presented for bedtime book reading.” She asks me to print out lyrics to songs she hears on the radio so she can sing them eloquently. She pauses movies so she can change into costume to act along. She writes dramatic letters to us and leaves them around the house with instructions. My daughter loves silly things and she loves people. Mostly, she is excited to do ANYTHING because each day is the BEST DAY EVER!
It’s easy for me to recognize a daddy’s girl; I’ve spent my whole life being one. The daddy -daughter connection is on a magic string from his heart to hers. My husband is her first love, her ultimate superhero. To her, he is the world’s funniest man, the strongest man, the greatest artist and the man with the most soothing voice. No one will ever read a story with as much enthusiasm and no one will push her on the swing so high, yet be ready to catch her if she falls. No one will make her feel as safe as she does, as she nuzzles up to him, under his arm, where she fits perfectly, the missing piece he never knew she would fill.