My daughter just turned nine. But to my way of thinking she is nine – going on 16.
Soon, I fear, I will be ringing other fathers, men with grown-up daughters, seeking their advice on how to handle this mystery that is a girl somewhere on the path to becoming a woman. But I doubt they will be able to help one iota.
A year or so ago we were at Mass one Saturday night. I was seated with the cantors in our little Neocatechumenal community.
My wife and children were sitting facing the altar and I found my attention drifting away from Father’s words of wisdom towards my family.
I noticed my daughter was not dealing well with a fine homily for adults and was instead gazing at the ceiling, almost looking as if she was experiencing a vision.
Having spent many years of my own childhood biding my time until I could get out of the Church and run around outside, I knew – or thought I knew – what was going on in her mind.
What happened next suprised even me. “Yes!” she suddenly exclaimed out loud as though she had experienced some kind of revelation. Everyone present heard her, and faces all around the community reflexively turned to see what was going on.
Seated in front of her were two young boys, one then aged about 11. “What?” asked the 11-year-old who had turned around after her exclamation.
As everyone in the community waited, including a very patient priest whose homily had just been interrupted, she pointed at the 11 year-old-boy and with complete deliberation and in full view of everyone announced “I’m going to marry you!”
Mass disrupted about as completely as it’s possible to do.
On another occasion I was sitting on the couch in the loungeroom practising music.
Her Serene Highness, the Jade Lion Kung Fu Fighting Princess, approached me with an expression on her face I already knew perfectly.
I could already see that she wanted something from me and was contemplating the ways she could get me to give her… whatever.
Several seconds passed as she stood there weighing up her options. Finally, she put on the sweetest, cutest expression she obviously thought would win me over and launched into the sales pitch.
I tried not to laugh because it seems a strange thing about girls and women that they seem to do this.
I remembered a friend saying to me once “Women have a cinema screen right inside the front of their heads.
They’re watching the movie and they can see everything, the tuxedo, the bridesmaid’s outfits, the whole lot.”
They were, I think, quite wise words. I wanted to tell my daughter I was not stupid as other fathers are. I had just seen her trying to figure out how to get me to acquiesce. So why did I give her what she wanted?
My daughter and my wife are two of the women in my life. Others are in heaven.
Thinking a lot about the significance of what it is to be made male and female in the image and likeness of God I once realised that God is beautiful just as, in a man’s eyes, a woman can seem beautiful.
Now, whenever I see or meet a woman who seems beautiful, I realise that God is revealing something of who God is to me. I used to think of God as the figure of authority.
In some ways it helps. But I also see God as a mystery. I see that it is possible to fall in love with God. God is love, but God is also… beauty.
Every girl and woman is a mystery because she actually is an image of the mysterious Creator.
For me, the beauty that is femininity is one sign of who God really is. A nine-year-old helped teach me that.