Last night, I painted ten little chubby fingers and ten little chubby toes the perfect shade of Sofia purple.  I brushed her long blonde hair, and she picked out her favorite pink dress, pink headband, and “pretty” shoes.  I led her to my jewelry box and she giggled as I pulled out my pearl necklace and fastened it around her neck.

She waited not-so-patiently for her date to arrive, talking about what fun things she and her beau might do.  She had never been on a date before, and she was a bit nervous.  She danced down the hall and clicked her fancy shoes and waited for the moment.

Then the doorbell rang, and she poked her head around the corner.  Is this it?  She opened the door slowly, and stood in shock.

Her daddy was standing there in his nice clothes holding a bouquet of beautiful flowers.

He hugged her tight and told her how beautiful she looked, and she grinned and smelled her flowers.

After a few photos, they left for a magical evening at Chick Fil A, dessert at Coldstone, and a trip down the princess aisle at Target.

When they returned home, she all but floated into the living room to show me her beautiful rose and trinkets from their date, and whispered to me secrets about the toppings on her ice cream and how they looked at new toys for her birthday.  When my beautiful girl drifted to sleep last night, her cheeks were still rosy from the excitement, and her smile still hung on her lips.

Dads, love your daughter.

Love your daughter like you love her mother.  Give them her the attention she needs and craves from her father.  Tell her she’s beautiful and wrap her up in your arms.  Listen to her talk your ear off about silly things that make up her entire world.  Kiss her on the cheek and buy her flowers.  Let her pick out her ice cream toppings, even though you know she won’t eat half of it.  Dance with her.  Love her.

Love your daughter like you want her future husband to love her.  Show her that a real man rings the doorbell, holds the door open for her, and takes her to her favorite places.  Show her that any man who treats her less than you do isn’t worth her time.  Set the standard for her.  Don’t just set the standard, but set it high.

Dads, you hold the key to how she views herself with men for the rest of her life.  She will base every boy she dates off of your example.  Show her that she is treasured and worth more than gold, so she will never choose the boy who will treat her as less than that.  Lead her to believe in real examples of love, and not just those fanciful ones that exist in fairy tales from princes with white horses.  Show her that a true love is human, kind, gentle, and can sometimes make mistakes.  But love her just the same.

Dads, love your daughter.

I promise you, your own cheeks will still be rosy and your own smile will still be hanging on long after she is tucked in for bed.  I know, because the same thing happened to my little girl’s daddy last night.

Dads, love your daughter.

She will grow up and remember nights like these for forever.  I know, because my own daddy did this for me.  Since I don’t have my daddy anymore, those memories are stored in that little box in my heart that I bring out when I need a good cry.  I won’t ever forget how special I felt, and how beautiful he taught me to believe I am.

Dads, love your daughter.

She’s worth it.