Perhaps you’ve seen the video by now; a little girl receives a doll with a prosthetic leg and, upon opening, she is overcome with joy at this revelation. The video closes with the now teary-eyed girl saying, “Thank you for making a doll like me.” (I’ve included the YouTube video with captioning options below.)
In much the same way, that is my experience as a dad. My daughter does not have a wheelchair like me but, she has my eyes, my smile, my sense of humor. In so many ways, she is like me and for this I’m grateful. She is like her mom too of course. In my eyes, she represents the perfect combination of her mom and me. In fact, that’s just it.
As I watched the above mentioned video for the first time, and posted it to my Facebook wall, I suggested it’s representation which makes the story of the girl and her new doll so special.
Disabled bodies are often under-represented in the public view and, just as this is true in many areas, this is true of disabled parents. Likewise, we are often represented poorly making matters worse when we are represented at all. This can bring out a whole list of other complications and difficulties should another area of one’s life breakdown as often happens.
This happened to me. My relationship with my daughter’s mother, unfortunately, broke down. This world is a far too broken place, filled with broken people, myself included.
There is always more than enough blame to go around when this happens, of course, but the best advice I received as I navigated these waters fraught with lawyers on both sides was, “Remember your daughter is half of both parents. If one parent is portrayed negatively, she can easily internalize this as part of herself. After all, it’s who she is too.”
So, here I am. Not a perfect dad but a dad nonetheless. I’m a dad who, when holding my daughter for the first time, knew I would do anything for her. I might not always love perfectly but my imperfection has nothing to do with my body.
It’s the love that matters. Therefore, each day I wake up trying to love a little bit better than I did the day before. I’ve grown a lot in the nine years I’ve had my daughter both as a father and as a person. I’ve grown because of her.
As for my daughter, she looks (at least half) like me, though, I do my best to love her completely with each day I’m given. My body is my body but she has my heart.