Monday, September 23, 2013

How To Assemble A Daughter: An Instruction Manual From My Memory

for Daddy, Michael Aaron, Ray Flores, Ran Walker and every man who’s had the pleasure of raising a girl child...


Sit around, during the middle of the night, waiting to hear a cracking sound or footsteps. Once you realize that there will be none, because heartbreak doesn’t make a sound, write a language only she and you will understand.

Remember the moment that she walked around your office inquiring the usage of everything. She sat on a small file cabinet, kicking her feet against it. She pointed to an old and filled manila folder, with colorful pages sticking out from it. “Daddy what’s this?” Tell her that they’re poems and stories, ones you’d written for her mother and for moments that only the pen could revive.

She will come downstairs, wanting to snuggle next to her mommy and cry her first love from existence. Kneel next to her, in the same way the man who’ll ask for her hand will, one day, and present her with a letter. The letter will briefly mention beating her ex to a pulp, in jest (or not), and conclude with a reminder of love and a metaphorical poem about a tree and a bird. You’ll hope that it’s conveyed that although she will leave the nest, home is always rooted.


Push her on swings. Wince when she says ‘higher’. Be prepared to catch her, when the sky is almost reachable and she’s frightened. Continue to push her this way, as she gets older.

Watch her scowl; tell you that you’re pushing to hard. Laugh as her Skechers, Vans, Timberlands, Nikes, (depending on what phase she’s in) stomp into the ground, exclaiming that she’s grown, knowing that your words will resonate one day.

  • Watch her fall and get back up again:
  • When the table isn’t close enough and she can’t grasp it, when learning to walk.
  • When her best friend, who she’s secretly in love with, tells her that he has a new girlfriend.
  • When she loses her first poetry slam.
  • When she is fighting with her sexuality.
  • When you have the urge to tell her that you told her so, but her tears won’t allow the words to surface.


Be prepared to cry in silence, because you think that her seeing you that way will lessen your manhood, in her eyes. Be surprised when she catches you and is amazed that boys/men can cry. Be shocked when you relay to her that real men do cry sometimes. Watch her peer in confusion, as her mind shifts priorities. Watch her quietly add vulnerability to her standards list.


Give advice, even when she deems it unnecessary. She will fight you, she’ll be angry at you for setting a stock that no man seems to fit in her twenties, but will rejoice that she hasn’t settled, when she’s found the one. Take the anger in stride, knowing that your praises will come soon enough.

Find her, slung in a corner, sure that love doesn’t exist in this world. Turn your hugging arms into a spine and pick her up. Show her faith, God, and mirth; remind her that she is capable of aching-belly laughter. Just moments ago she was sure that she would never beam again.


Do crazy things; Even when folks say that you’re doing too much or give you the you-know-she’ll-rebel-if-you-hold-on-too-tight, hold tighter. Bring her back gifts from anywhere you go, even if you’ve forgotten. Let her believe that the airport teddy bear is from your trip to Puerto Rico, just so she can feel special.

Have her take tons of private school exams; frightened that public school might hinder her. Witness her ace the verbal, but diminish in math. Enroll her in tutoring. Take her to a Spanish-speaking country when she fails her first Spanish test, feel ashamed knowing that it was the native language of your father.

“Why are still in this town Salida? How big is this place?”
“Daddy, I think Salida means exit.”

Watch her teach you.

 Take her to Boston and hold her just over the ledge, where they had the tea party. Watch her eleven year old eyes come to life as she realizes that she’s standing in the very same place she learned about, in school, only days ago.


Watch her surpass you in everything. Take pride in the fact that sometimes you make her feel like she’s better than you, just so her security gets an extra shove. Hoop with her, through backboard shots that used to go swoosh,  so that she can trash talk you. Watch her skateboard and bruise, get nervous when you realize that she’s a tomboy. Be at ease again when her eyes light up at the next boy that walks down the block. 

When she tells you about that experimental phase in college, apprehend that even if it were this way you’d love her no less.


Dance with her at her eighth grade prom and have her mother snapshot it, while she puts on a phony smirk. She will hate you for it then, but smile at the picture for years to come.

Dance and joke in front of her friends at slumber parties and have her friends laugh at you. She’ll cringe in embarrassment, but find solace in the cool dad stories her friends will tell about you.


Be frightened when her mother is out of town and it’s the time that Mother Nature decides to come calling. Keep calm, while she is running up and down the stairs screaming for you to ‘call mommy.’  Take the normal trip to the pharmacy knowing that it’ll be any moment now that she’s a woman.

Buy things that are really just for you: Nintendo and laptops during her toddler years. Make her an AOL account, before she’s nine. Be infuriated when your parental controls reveal that she’s finally picked up curse words.


Master the art of guidance. Try not to consume her entire life, but nudge her shoulder in the right directions.

·      Appreciate her love for hip-hop, but bring her to jazz festivals and BlackStar concerts. Let her know that the culture she loves so much has a birthplace.
·      Present her mother with pearl necklaces, in front of her.
·      Pontificate your ideology of love, loud enough for her to eavesdrop.
·      Snicker at boys’ attempt to woo her, without grace.

Some thug, pretending to be a gentleman, in his Easter Sunday suit, will yell across the street.

“Yo b*tch! Get off the block! You ain’t wanna answer a n*gga’s phonecalls! Right? Get off the block.”

Watch her avoid eye contact with him, praying that you will not realize he is speaking to her. Know immediately that he is. Ask her to sit still and walk across the street to speak to him.

This will be the first time that she’ll recognize you as a protector and provider.

“Don’t be fooled young brother, this was my hood before it was yours. Have some respect.”

Watch what your daughter considered a man pull up his slacks, in an effort to match the machismo of your own and apologize.

“I’m sorry sir…sorry, but I liked your daughter and…”


Screw up, some of the time. Do not chastise yourself when you do, and realize that there is no perfection to the art of raising what you perceive to be perfection.

In college, when you come down on her about her switching of majors and indecisiveness, remember that she’s fragile. She will run amuck and slam doors, but she will cry behind them. You will want to yell and scream and pull the door off of its hinges. You will want to tell her that this is YOUR house. However, you must recognize that her rebellion is a facet of all the things that girls learn to keep quiet, after a certain age.

She is now a crucifix. Eighteen: The age where whispers are buried in wombs and heart nooks. She is a walking sacrifice, a strength bearer. Something you’ve raised and didn’t even notice until it was too late.

This is the moment where you tell her she doesn’t have to go it alone. Present yourself as backbone; pray that she will walk with you alongside her.

Go back to steps 1-10. Repeat, repeat, repeat…

& your daughters will mutter prayers into the air….they’ll give in to the figures you’ve left behind…

Within their confidence…
Within their husbands, wives, and solitude…
Within their careers…

Our fathers thou art in fitted caps and business suits. Hallowed be thy gestures. Thy palace is a two-story-house-apartment-complex-back-of-a-car-homeless-shelter and we will appreciate everything you do, in efforts to maintain home in our hearts. Thy efforts aren’t futile and we will one day come to understand each and every one of them. Give us this day our daily bread:Child support, college application fees, new kicks, date night money (just in case homeboy doesn’t mind his manners), and those months we fall behind.

And forgive us when we forget to thank you.
Forgive us when we turn around and disrespect the men who’ve done nothing but be there for us.
Forgive us for loving foolishly.
Forgive us for inerasable mistakes.

Lead us…everywhere, for we are never too old to succumb to wisdom.

Deliver us from hating ourselves and the world that so often encourages us to.

Instruct us.


Editor said...

Wow, this is beautiful. Reminds me so much of my daddy and the guidance he instilled in myself and my two sisters. I have to send this to him to read, he would love it.

Ran Walker said...

One word: beautiful!

Twyla said...

This melts my heart. My Dad was all of these things in the somewhat meager 14 years that I had him in my life. And I know he would've been a wonderful friend in my adult years. Thanks for this. Great write.