It was a typical spring day when at the age of 29, my wife informed me that we were expecting our first child. I was excited, ecstatic — instantly transported to the special place that The Temptations referred to as “Cloud Nine.” However, unlike the message fueling that Motown classic, my exuberance and euphoria came through natural means.

With each passing month, and as my wife’s moods swung haphazardly from left to right and her once-svelte body blossomed as it changed in preparation for the birth of our baby, I began to think about the things I’d learned from my father, the times we had shared together and the love he poured on me — in me — always unconditionally and which I cherish, even to this day.

I lamented briefly when first getting the news, realizing that Daddy would be unable to share in the miracle of birth, having died from lung cancer years earlier when I was 25 — a period in my life where neither marriage, much less children, had even entered my mind. Still, I knew he wouldn’t miss this party. He’d be hovering in our midst and would certainly nuzzle his scruffy beard against the check of Baby McNeir from time to time — once he or she made their appearance.

My mother occasionally shared a past remembrance about fathers — a tale we could expect if she’d dropped one of her amazing dinners on us, then allowed herself a few sips of her favorite beverage, Cold Duck. Seems that when Daddy first saw me through the hospital window where one could get a look at the newborns, he bragged to my godfather “Slim.” See his impressive size, head full of hair and well-defined muscles, Daddy said, thrusting out his chest filled with either pride or hot air. My godfather is said to have burst my father’s bubble, responding, “It looks like a baby to me.”

I still laugh when I think about that story and it reminds me of how I felt when I first held my little girl and she grabbed my finger. Needless to say, she had me hooked from that moment on. She still has that power over me, my Jasmine — my self-proclaimed “Baby Girl” — the first to be given that title of affection. Two years ago, I gave the nickname to another “little lady.” With my daughter’s permission, my four-legged companion and sidekick — a female Boxer — is also called “Baby Girl.”

The years have gone by quickly — the memorable moments seared into my heart and soul. And I’m so grateful that I have been granted these years replete with special one-on-ones and treasured opportunities to feel my daughter’s spirit and witness her internal beauty. On occasion, with no one else but us present, we found ourselves engaged in conversations between our spiritual selves, and we rejoiced.

This week she entered her third decade of life, turning 30 years old. Time waits for no one. She’s made me proud — well, most of the time, anyway. As for me, while I can recount the mistakes I made, the words I wish I’d never spoken — the times that, rather than bringing laughter into her life, I had caused her pain — I can say that the good times, the good old days, far outnumber the bad. I think I’ve been a good father and friend. I know I have done my best.

And I cannot imagine my life without her — or her having lived for 30 years and me not having been a part of those millions of precious, impossible to recapture or replicate, moments.

Why then, I often wonder, do so many Black men, many who have been or remain my friends or mentors, look upon fatherhood as an injury they wish they’d dodged, an ugly blackhead that has taken residence on their face which they’d just as soon cover up — a mistake that they wish they could have avoided and never made.

Some brothers tell me, and I’ve certainly heard it from my elders when I was a child, that they only wanted one thing — a boy — they needed a boy to continue the family name, longed for a boy so they could teach him about becoming a man. Daughters were not included in their equation. And so, they continued to squander God’s gifts.

As fatherhood became another of my mantras, the gender of my children never mattered. Four years after my daughter, we had a son. And so, I have been twice blessed. And our connections to each other, my daughter and son, have been unique in their own respect. Still, there’s just something amazingly-special with father-daughter relationships. For me, it’s almost as if we were twins — mirror images — spirits walking in synch who just “know” when it comes to the other.

Of course I don’t love one child more than the other. I simply feel a “something” for my daughter, impossible to express in words — an irony given the career I’ve carved out for myself as a journalist.

It’s okay that I’m at a loss whenever I consider and then attempt to identify that “something” which my firstborn and I possess in equal portions — that we both cherish and to which we cling with all of our might.

And I celebrate the fact that it belongs to us, alone. In all of the ways that matter, my daughter Jasmine is “my best me.” What a special gift. My Baby Girl # 1.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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