|Father and Daughter
|William Stafford is one of my beloved poets. He died in the last 10 years. He is one of
our American poets. This poem is one of my favorites that I like to read with my
children. It always warms my heart.
With Kit, Age 7, At the Beach
We would climb the highest dune,
from there to gaze and come down:
the ocean was performing;
we contributed our climb.
Waves leapfrogged and came
straight out of the storm.
What should our gaze mean?
Kit waited for me to decide.
Standing on such a hill,
what would you tell your child?
That was an absolute vista.
Those waves raced far, and cold.
"How far could you swim, Daddy,
in such a storm?"
"As far as was needed," I said,
and as I talked, I swam.
I have stood on the Indiana Dunes and watched big storms come across Lake Michigan
from the northwest...it can look fierce!! We read this poem to our children often.. We
want them to know that "...as we talk, we are swimming." And many times, just a few
steps ahead of them... and other times... just trying to catch up....
Fathers hold and protect their daughters because a blessing is trying to be formed
around them. Fathering involves an "awkward praying" that
"fathers a child into life."
A father learns to hear his daughter and stay present to
their truth as it unfolds.
In our poem.... the father has pulled his daughter up to view the great storms of life.
They stare together at the stormy ocean.
The daughter wants to know: "How far could you swim, Daddy, in such a storm?"
How far will the father go for the child?
How far does the father's heart reach out into the world?
Can the father embrace suffering, pain, tragedy, and sorrow?
She needs to hear an emotional truth spoken from his heart.
She needs to hear her father's heart---the shape of it.
Her question pulls him into the waves of the torn sea---
"As far as was needed," he says, and as he talks, he swims.
Father is about being present,
bearing the difficulties,
staying in there,
not having all the answers.... Just there!
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