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Smart Girl Dad

by Misty Rae 4 months ago in Family
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It's Not For The Faint Of Heart

Smart Girl Dad
Photo by RUT MIIT on Unsplash

Raising children is the most difficult and often most thankless job in the world. There are no days off. There are no vacations. There's constant emotional upheaval. Oh, and there's no pay.

Raising a girl child is all that and more.

Raising a temperamental, too smart for her own good girl child with a mouth that was even smarter than her mind, well, I can barely imagine how challenging that is!

And raising a temperamental, too smart for her own good girl child with a smart mouth when the generation gap between you is so large that the world you're raising that baby in is a place you don't even recognize? What about that?

THAT, I can imagine. That's what my dad signed up for, albeit unwittingly at first.

When he ran to his brother's aid that hot August day, he had no plans to bring a baby home. He just went to do what big brothers do, lend whatever support he could to a young man in a tough spot.

At 26, his baby brother had lost the woman he loved unexpectedly and found himself a single father of 3 children including a 3-week-old infant. He had no job and no real aim to get one. Until that day, he had been a young man, playing house and playing grown-up.

Suddenly, adult decisions had to be made. Tough adult decisions such as what was going to happen to the children, and in particular, the infant - me.

My dad, well, the man that was to become my dad, asked the nurses if he could see the baby. I'm not sure why he did that. He always loved children. It could have been as simple as that.

A nurse took him to the nursery, picked me up and placed me in his arms. He, as he told the story, instantly fell in love with the tiny bundle he was cradling. I grabbed his nose and made some sounds and he said I had knowing eyes.

Baby bright eyes

After a lot of discussion, several phone calls and what I'm guessing had to be a boatload of paperwork, he brought me home to begin his life as a Smart Girl Dad.

There's a running joke in my family that he first discovered I was smarter than him (his words not mine) when I was about 2 years old. I had a habit of sucking my middle two fingers. I'm not sure why, it seems to me sucking my thumb would have been easier, but I never was one for doing anything the easy way.

My parents wanted desperately to cure me of this habit. They tried everything, chastising, pulling my hand from my face every time they caught me putting it near my mouth, a gentle swat. Nothing worked.

Daddy came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea. It was so brilliant that he couldn't help but laugh uproariously at his own genius.


He brought me into the kitchen, took my little wet fingers out of my mouth and shook pepper all over them. Then he carried me back out to the living room and sat me on his lap as he watched and waited.

The anticipation of seeing my reaction when I finally put those peppery fingers into my mouth was more than he could bear. He laughed and laughed.

He waited and waited. Then suddenly, his wait was over. In went my fingers and there was a huge reaction! Shock, sputtering, and more laughter. I put my fingers right into his mouth, wide open with anticipatory giggles. He didn't try that again and I eventually stopped sucking my fingers on my own.

Baby 1 -Dad 0

As time went on, he discovered that I was a little sponge, soaking everything up around me. The prospect of raising a bright child with the whole world in front of her filled him with pride and excitement. He was determined to give me everything he never had. Most importantly, an education.

My dad was born into a poor, every-growing Black family in 1930. The oldest boy of what would become 13 children, he came of age during the Great Depression and World War II.

He was a handsome child with a quick smile, but school was a constant struggle for him.

My dad, front and centre, handsome as can be.

It wasn't that he wasn't bright. His intelligence manifested itself more in practical ways, or as he would have said, he wasn't "disposed so well to the book learnin'." I suspect that had he been a child now, he'd have been diagnosed with a learning difference. But in small town Canada back then, that didn't happen.

On a late June day in 1940, he received his report card. It read, "Unforntuanately, Reuben will be required to repeat the fourth grade." That was the last day he spent in a classroom. He quit school and went to work in the woods, and wherever else he could, alongside the men of the town.

Watching me blossom into a percocious little tyke was, looking back, one of his greatest joys. He loved watching my little mind at work and did what he could to make it work even harder. He was determined that his baby girl would be the first in the family to go to university.

He beamed with pride when I read my books to him. He drew pictures with me and taught me everything he knew. On long drives, he taught me about the lines on the road, when cars could pass, when they coudln't until I would holler out with glee on every outing, "We can pass," "They can pass," or "Nobody can pass."

By Jesse Echevarria on Unsplash

One of his favourite ways to teach me was through rhymes. My dad was a master! Maybe that's where my son, the rapper and music producer got his talent. But I digress.

Daddy loved to make up little rhymes with lessons in them for me. I don't remember all of them, but one sticks in my mind to this day:

Stop, look and listen before you cross the street,

Use you eyes and use your ears before you use your feet.

Kindergarten me, I learned to cross the street. ;)

Things were great for years! Daddy and his clever little chatterbox. I was his mini-me. Where he went I went. He took me to work with him on the weekends.

He was in the military and was in charge of one of the male barracks, D-27. Every Saturday, after shopping, he'd check in on the 40 - 60 young recruits, 18 -20 year old young men, most of whom were away from home for the first time. He wasn't on duty. He didn't have to check in. He did it because he felt a sense of responsibility to the those young boys from all over the country.

And he did it because I loved going there. I became the unoffical mascot of the building. Most young ladds that age could care less about a preschooler, but they seemed to adore the Corporal's girl. I'd sit on daddy's desk and they'd quiz me about my ABC's and 123's. And I learned how to speak French from a couple of the Quebec recruits.

Then things changed. Daddy's little girl wasn't little anymore. And she wasn't sweet. She was a teenager.

I lost interest in silly rhymes and being daddy's mini-me. I became embarrassed by the uncouth, uneducated father who ate his dinner with a tablespoon and who mispronounced words like "champion." He said "champ - eeen." Long story short, I became a temperamental, arrogant, smart-mouthed brat.

Everything he did annoyed the living shit out of me. When he enjoyed his Loius L'Amour western books, whispering every word to himself as he read, I seethed with irritation that he couldn't read silently.

When he asked me about my homework, I exploded with haughty anger. I didn't really do homework. I never had to, my work was done before I left school. Yet every night, he'd say, "Best get them lessons done." And every night, I'd come back with a smart mouth, telling him when he got his grade 5, he could tell me all about lessons.

I was horrible! And he had no idea what to do. It was the mid to late 80s and the old ways didn't work anymore. Children being seen and not heard was a relic from days gone by. Smacking a child into submission was no longer an effective or recommended method of discipline. When he'd try to ground me or otherwise correct my terrible behaviour, I threatened to run away.

I was seen. I was certainly heard. And he was out of options. So guess what he did?

He took it. He took all of it. He took my crap and still had my back. When I came home complaining about a teacher giving me an 8 or 9 out of 10 because they thought I could do better, he'd march to the school and find out what the problem was. And the conversation would always go something like this:

Daddy: You say she can do better. What's wrong with her work?

Teacher: Nothing, it's good, but she's capable of much better work.

Daddy: How does her work stand up to whatever your books say about how work in her grade is supposed to be?

Teacher: The very best, but that's not the point...

Daddy: I think that's exactly the point. She can do better, but all she needs to do is whatever the book says about the grade she's in. If she's the best in the grade, mark her so.

And when he wasn't going to bat for me with teachers, he was trying to be my pal, paying me to play cards with him, learning about the music I loved, dancing around and singing loudly, but badly.

I was horrified! I didn't want to play cards. I didn't care if he knew who Tears For Fears or Rick Astley were. And I certainly didn't want him singing and dancing to them when my friends came over. Uggg! He put the cringe in cringey decades before cringey was a thing. Seriously, picture a 57 year old man dancing around singing to this to start off your school day:

My friends thought he was the coolest dad on the planet. Me, not so much.

And, of course, there were still rhymes. He made up rhymes to make me laugh. They didn't. They annoyed me. He'd make up little verses about my favourite singers, like this little ditty about Canadian cutie Corey Hart:

Corey hart let a fart and tore the world half apart.

My toes curled in my boat shoes!

What I didn't know then was what he was really doing. He was trying to connect. He was desperately throwing out anything and everything he had in his arsenal to get back the baby girl he loved so desperately and who seemed to be drifting further and further away with each passing day into a world he had a hard time understanding. And I was too arrogant and wraped up in myself to see it.

He came to my high school graduation and proudly watched me walk across the stage over and over for award after award. His voice was the loudest in the gym as he cheered.

And I eventually grew out of my childish ways. As he got sicker and sicker, fading from the strong 250 pound powerhouse to a small, shriveled, weak man who became old before his time, I played endless games of cards, listened to countless rhymes and we danced around to all those songs.

He'd often get difficult to deal with in those final years, refusing to take his medication, taking any bit of control he had left. And my mother used the only weapon she had, me.

And I'd come and sternly tell him how things were going to be. I was the only one he'd listen to because not only was I the smart one, I was just as stubborn as he was, probably more stubborn. He'd take his pills, promise to be good and then I'd cook him pork chops.

I can't say I was the first to go to university in the family, but I was among the first. He wasn't there to see it. But I was the first one in the family to go to and complete law school.

And those small steps in some way rippled throughout my family. He encouraged me and let me blossom. He gave me a safe space to be a smart girl and to be an example for countless brilliant young women in my family who've gone on to do wonderful, amazing things. Best smart girl dad ever!


About the author

Misty Rae

Retired legal eagle, nature love, wife, mother of boys and cats, chef, and trying to learn to play the guitar. I play with paint and words. Living my "middle years" like a teenager and loving every second of it!

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (8)

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  • J. Delaney-Howe3 months ago

    Very well told. Nice! I enjoyed it and loved the pictures.

  • Love it!

  • Babs Iverson4 months ago

    Another winner!👏💖😊💕

  • The Dani Writer4 months ago

    I love the way you tell this story! Reader engagement and investment off the charts! This is an accurate depiction of how children can be until we learn better. Ask me how I know...

  • Mariann Carroll4 months ago

    You are definitely a Legend in my book. Another compelling and Excellent way of telling your story. My favorite part .He took my crap but still had my back. Rick Ashley “ never going to give you up …..Speechlees with ahhh

  • A wonderful tribute to your father and love the rhymes. BTW Rick Astley is a great drummer and you need to check out his "Highway To Hell" on Youtube.

  • Cathy holmes4 months ago

    Winner, winner

  • Gerald Holmes4 months ago

    Wonderful as always. Your father got it right and knew what was important,

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