Today, before I sat down to write, I went outside with my 4-month-old daughter to say good morning to the trees, mostly cedars and ponderosa pines. It has become our ritual as I carry her slowly between patches where the sun breaks through, offering morning warmth and brightness to us and the San Bernardino Mountains.
The trees seem to speak to her, settle her, intrigue her. I think they were her best friends until a couple of days ago, when she discovered her feet, which have since redirected her concerns and affections.
I wish she would remember these moments, but I know she won't. This is her time to give memories, not take them. I will try to do the same for her. I hope they are good and meaningful memories and, unlike many she has given me thus far, do not involve poop.
"Daddies & Daughters" (Simon & Schuster, 281 pages, $20), by Carmen Renee Berry and Lynn Barrington, examines father-daughter relationships from both perspectives. It looks at the memories, pleasant and painful, that go into this complex bond.
The book offers no detailed advice, like "Never take your baby daughter into Ikea to take a quick glance at baby furniture without taking a spit-up towel" or "Don't change her diaper without immediately placing a new one under her." It addresses larger issues, divided into four sections: "It's a Girl," "Daddy's Girl," "Adult to Adult" and "Troubles and Triumphs."
It deals with lessons we learn from each other as we watch our daughters grow up and as they watch us grow old. It describes how we change and how we remain the same.
One woman quoted in the book described her arrival at her parents' house on Christmas morning in 1977 after suffering her first broken heart.
"I dragged myself to my father, who sat in a nearby chair. I crawled into his lap and he held me close to his chest. . . . I hadn't been in his lap since I was 6. I was 25 years old and all 5 feet, 8 inches of me was hunched in my father's lap. . . . My father had the uncanny sense of knowing what to say to whom at a given moment. He knew exactly what to say to me. He never said one word."
Topics range from walking to the front door to shake hands with your daughter's first date, to walking her to the wedding altar and then stepping aside.
Fathers and daughters will find many of their own thoughts reflected in the book. The guidance we are given is that, through it all, we can make each other better people.
The relationship with my daughter certainly will grow more complex with time. I hope she will still walk with me in the sun when she and I are older. For now, we will talk to the trees, and I will compete with her feet the best I can for her affections.