My words were a little more firm than I usually speak to her. I didn’t then, nor have I ever, wanted to get mad at her. After everything that’s happened in the last year and a half, I figure the last thing she needs is a dad who’s always getting after her.
But her consistent effort throughout the day to whine at and disobey everything I say had my patience running on just a few threads.
“Mandy, I don’t want to get mad at you. I love you and I just want to spend time with you,” I explained to her. “I try to show you I love you every day you’re here. It makes me sad when you scream at me and push me away. I wish you would talk to me and tell me how you feel.”
Her lip started to poke out as the tears started to fall from her eyes.
“Daddy, I don’t like to talk because I feel sad that you leave me,” Mandy replied.
Her abrupt response took me by surprise. It felt like a heart-breaking punch in the face. If love was something tangible, I would’ve chosen that moment to wrap her tightly inside it and hold her tight. Since that wasn’t possible, the only thing to do was to hug her.
I knew she was hurting, but up to that point I had no idea what went through her mind because she doesn’t express her feelings to me.
She started to cry and continued,
“It makes me sad that you and mom don’t get along. I wish we could be together all the time.”
Though her words were hard to hear, I felt comforted by the fact that my efforts at being a dad were making an impact. It made me feel good to know that my 4-year-old daughter actually thought about me.
I held her tightly and said,
“Mandy, I’m so sorry. This has to be so hard for you. You are a special little girl and you didn’t deserve for any of this to happen.”
My attempt to ease her pain felt so inadequate, but I continued.
“I think about you and Ryker every day. While I drive to work, I pray for you and sometimes I cry because I miss you.”
“It makes me so happy to be with you, and I wish I could be with you everyday, too,” I said.
I gave her a kiss as I tucked her in bed and told her I loved her. There was a sweet feeling in the room as I read her a bedtime story. This was one of those rare moments when she hanging on every word. As I finished, she said,
“Read another one, Daddy.”
I got halfway through another story when her eyes became heavy and she drifted off to sleep. I watched her lay there and noticed a smile across her face. She was sound asleep, but she was already in a state of peaceful dreaming.
I silently prayed for heaven’s blessings upon my little girl. That night, I felt a feeling of warmth and peace–an assurance that, perhaps only in her dreams, there were angels attending her.