My English Language Learner from China has trouble pronouncing r-sounds and l-sounds, so words like world and real are impressively difficult for her to say. My Juniors have trouble sounding out Transcendentalist. Roommate Amy struggles with the word ‘specific.’ There are long words like disestablishmentarianism and short words like cur. There are fake words like supercalifragelisticexpialidoscious. There’s the F-bomb, which is really hard for some people, and the easiest in the world for others. Yet, of all the words out there, I struggle with the most basic of morphemes: Dad.
It’s one of the first words I learned, and one of the most relevant in all of life. So many of us take the word for granted, because we were taught/conditioned to apply that word as a name for the man who has given us our DNA. You know what, though? It’s really hard for me to say Dad… or Daddy, Father, Abba, etc…
When I was really young, I watched this show on Nickelodeon called Hey Dude. It was about teenagers living on a dude ranch, and it started off with these awesome lyrics:
It’s a little wild and a little strange, when you make your home out on the range. So start your horse and come along, but you can’t get a ride if you can’t hold on.
Singin’ yippy ky-yi-yay (yippy ky-yi what?)
Like the cowboys say.
‘Til the break of day.
*Yes. I did just type those words from memory 🙂
Whenever I would watch that opening, my dad would laugh and laugh, and he’d walk around for days saying HEEEEEEEYYYYYYYY DUUUUUUDE! He did it so much in fact, that we started saying it to each other as a greeting. He’d walk in the door after work and I’d be laying on the couch watching Full House, and I’d say HEEEEY DUUUUDE as he walked in the door. I wouldn’t get up and greet him. I wouldn’t say “Hi Daddy,” or even really look up from the tv screen. And oddly enough, I think that was the way he wanted it.
You see, I was the easy child. Everything with me was easy. I was an honor roll student with perfect attendance, most coach-able player, all-state clarinetist, girl scout, and lead actress in my school play. Everything with me was easy and casual. I was calling my dad ‘dude’ because it pleased him to have an inside joke with me – because I molded myself into what he wanted me to be… a buddy.
Now that I’m in my mid-twenties, though, I’m starting to wonder what we lost when we lost the word ‘Dad.’
What is a dad anyways?
If I were to generate a list right now, I’d say that a dad is leader, protector, encourager, teacher, adviser, disciplinarian. He is way more than just these things, but from this list I think it’s obvious that ‘dad’ is more than a name. It’s more than we can ever understand or describe, and it’s a title through which we honor those men who display for us the way God the Father relates to us. That’s why it’s so tragic when fathers abandon their families, abuse, neglect, wish they’d never had kids, wished their girls had been boys or that their musicians had been athletes. How can a child relate to God the Father in a positive way if her earthly example of fatherhood only had kids because “your mother’s clock was ticking…”?
It’s really hard for me to pray to Abba.
I don’t have any trouble praying to God or Lord, but Abba and Father are more difficult for me to relate to – maybe I ought to just start all my prayers out with HEEEEYYYY DUUUUDE! You think?
I’ve been trying to honor the dads in my life lately, but it literally gets hard for me to breathe when I call even the most deserving men “daddy”. I’m a cliche of lumps in my throat, something heavy on my chest, and goosebumps all over my arms. I choke up when I’m called daughter…I’ve been HEEEEYYYYY DUUUUDE for way too long.
You know what else chokes me up – people who call me Katie or Kate. I’ve been DUDE at home, KJ at softball, Ms. James at work, occasionally Kathryn Leigh or Katie James with friends and family. I’ve been Flo, Marla, and any number of other nicknames, but I haven’t been Katie, Kate, or daughter.
Daughter is a good word. It’s a really good word – like forgiveness, safety and touch are good words.
And even though it’s the hardest word for me to say right now, Dad is a good word. And there are men who not only deserve to be called Dad… they like to be called Dad. They want to be more than Dude. And I want to know them as more than that – to know Abba as more than that.