They call them Girl Dads, those fathers of girls who forge close connections with their daughters. You’ve seen them. They are the volunteer coaches on the girls’ soccer teams, the dads pouring imaginary tea at a party just for two, and the dads turned stylists who painstakingly learn to do their daughters’ hair — something writer, director, and co producer Matthew Cherry captured so poignantly in his Oscar winning animated short film,” Hair Love.”
The late basketball Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant was famously a Girl Dad — those pictures with daughter Gianna who died in the helicopter crash with him, and the ones with his other three girls are heartbreaking to look at now. Former WWE wrestler turned action movie star Dwayne The Rock Johnson, a mountain of a man, is a big ol’ softy with his girls. Barack Obama is a proud Girl Dad. And even fictional Girl Dads rule on the TV drama, “This is Us,” where characters Jack Pearson lovingly supports his daughter Kate, and Jack’s grown-up son Randall is deeply connected to both his biological and adopted daughters.
My favorite Girl Dad? My father, Samuel Crossley, who I miss all the time particularly when Father’s Day approaches. He died fifteen years ago, but I still feel a pang when I see fathers with their young daughters. It's especially hard to watch a young girl calling out to her father in that well known repetitive chant, ”Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” In my mind’s eye, I see a young me employing that chant trying to persuade my dad to let me stay just a few more minutes at the library, or get an ice cream cone, or buy me an all-the-girls-have-it trinket. He was a strict disciplinarian, but I could still get him to give in — sometimes.
Girl Dads, by definition, dote on their daughters by lavishing time and attention. My sister Jean and I were Daddy’s ever-present tagalongs. I never heard my mother tell him to take us out; he just did. We were with him at the grocery store and in the barbershop and in his many hole-in-the-wall breakfast places where everybody did know his name. And in the barbershop — the quintessential bonding space for fathers and sons — we were his beribboned patent leather shoe companions. And because he loved golf, we’d visited many of the local courses, and knew our way around a pro shop. And though he’d just as soon play 21 holes as anything, he never allowed it to diminish his time with us. When he died, we donated most of his clubs to kids trying to learn the game, but I kept one — I think it’s the 3 wood. I hung it on my wall, and when it catches my eye, I smile among my tears remembering. And I often think about how my gregarious Dad would tell anyone who would listen (and that included strangers), “I always wanted a boy until I had these girls, and I tell you I wouldn’t take nothing for these girls.” Then he’d grin broadly before launching into his latest not-so-humble brag about my sister and me.
Not gonna lie. I envy the girls who will be with their Girl Dads this Father’s Day. Now that we are vaccinated and can hug again, I’m imagining lots of long heartfelt embraces. Daddy never got to hear the Girl Dad descriptor though I know he would have loved it. He surely set the standard for all the young Dads of daughters who came after him. Happy Father’s Day Girl Dads. You are truly special.