By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT
My little girl loves me. In fact, the other day she told me, “I love you too much!”
And I just looked at her.
“Do you mean you love me so much?” I asked her.
“Oh yeah. I love you SO much!”
But it made me wonder if my little girl’s love for me feels like too much for her. Or maybe it is too much for me?
Her love is strong, so intense, that sometimes I get scared about how much she loves me. Is her adoration, bordering on idolization, just setting us up for future problems? Sometimes as she caresses my face, seemingly memorizing every feature, I find myself wondering, will she end up with a completely unrealistic view of love based on her feelings for me? Am I destined to fail her, to never live up to the intensity and purity of her feelings for me? What would that mean for our relationship? Will she end up with unrealistic expectations of her partner because of how special our connection is? Am I making it impossible for her to have future relationships?
I don’t know. I just don’t know.
So that self-doubt sits on my shoulder, like a little devil, telling me something is wrong here, that this isn’t love, but something evil, dangerous, and I should begin to break away from her, to save her from myself. That somehow rejecting her now is better than whatever future series of failures and rejections she will experience if things don’t change between us now.
But on my right shoulder sits my little angel, represented by all of the research I have done on the subject of involved fathers and by the belief that loving her can’t be wrong. The research into girls and women with involved fathers has shown that their self-esteem, their self-satisfaction, the length of time they wait to engage in sexual activity is in direct proportion to their feeling loved by their father and the health (from their perspective) of that relationship.
Isn’t that what I want for my little girl? For her to grow up and be intelligent, strong, independent, and healthy, to make smart decisions about her sexuality rather than act out because of something she is missing? Has there ever been any doubt about that?
This battle continued in my mind, back and forth, particularly fierce this weekend when my wife relayed a story to me.
She was driving our children to school and listening to Marc Cohn’s first album, the same album she and I listened to seven times in-a-row the night we decided we wanted to give our relationship a chance, to see if maybe there really was something special between us. She told them the story and afterwards my little girl said to her, “I’m so glad you picked Daddy. I just love him so much!”
As tears leaked from my eyes after hearing that story, I thought to myself, Can love that pure be bad? Especially when that love is returned ten-fold in my love for her?
Maybe our love will have side-effects I can’t imagine right now, but my little girl will always be certain of one thing; she is loved. Hopefully, this will mean she will never have to worry about whether she is loveable or not, about how she deserves to be treated by her partner, about whether she is entitled to a healthy, loving relationship.
So while I still struggle with the intensity of her love for me, I plan to keep giving her everything I have right back in return.