I’ll admit that I watch Parenthood on NBC. We’ve got episodes queued up in the DVR ready waiting for a slow night. At first view I was dismissive—they’re all beautiful people living in beautiful houses in Berkeley! But then the issues of family and parenting began to resonate with me, and I saw that the character were much more layered (and well-acted) than you would think. This weekend one of the characters was arguing with his 15-year old daughter about the double standard of girls not being allowed to be physical with their boyfriends, while boys are encouraged to “get out there”. The father was being backed into a corner by his daughter, and I kept waiting for him to counter with the one argument for which there can’t be a rebuttal: “Because you’re my daughter.”
As father of a girl I’ve come to learn I’m in a special position. When Toddler Harbat was Brand New Baby Harbat, I remember thinking as I buckled her into the car seat to drive home from the hospital, “This is the most precious thing I’ve ever handled.” Very few of us get the chance to hold a gold bar, handle a Monet, or palm a Faberge egg. When you have a baby girl, it feels a hundred times more valuable, and as the father of a little girl you are thrust into the role of Ultimate Protector. This is a scary thing, especially as a new parent, which is probably why some baby daddies skip town.
When you have a girl, you feel a special protective emphasis because you know what boys are like. Countless times have fathers said, “I want to protect you from guys like me.” I wasn’t like that as a boy but know they’re out there. The image of a father blocking the doorway with his hands on his hips while his daughter peers around him at her prom date makes more and more sense as I watch Toddler Harbat grow up. Watching your daughter go out the door for prom is handing over your precious glass vessel to some kid with slippery hands and poor balance. “Don’t you dare drop her,” you think. But it’s not your choice. Maybe this is what scares me the most. When Toddler Harbat is 15 and arguing with me about dating, I’ll be in the impossible position of trying to protect someone who refuses protection.
As soon as I saw Baby Harbat wiggling in her warming tray, a tiny little thing with a striped beanie and ten perfect fingers and ten tiny toes, I knew I’d signed up for a lifetime role of Ultimate Protector, whether she wants it or not. I’m hoping she does.