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Something happened when my daughter was born.
Something so subtle, that I didn’t realize it until today (over two years later).
Something so intense that it excites and frightens me at the same time.

It’s one thing, but it has two affects.

This one thing (I’m still not sure what to call it — maybe it’s just fatherhood in general?) makes my dreams brighter and my nightmares darker.

My dreams have never been so aspirational, so high-reaching, so…BIG. My dreams go far beyond me. (Even in marriage, my dreams were heavily related on what Erin and I become together, so it still feels inward-focused.) But my new dreams for my daughter are bigger than I ever could have imagined. I want the best things for her, and I realize that many of those “things” are actually intangibles, like an excellent education and equal opportunities and chances to be whatever she wants. And I’ll do whatever I can to set her up to experience the life lessons that will help her become something great.

I don’t know that I’ve ever wanted anything so badly as the future I want for my daughter.

But I’m also realizing that my nightmares have never been more troubling. I never had to consider protecting my daughter from hate speech and bullying or unfair expectations because of her gender or what to do if someone were to try to sexually assault her. There is a deeply primal, lizard-brain response when I even get the notion that my daughter may have to endure difficulties in life because of the evils in the world, and I pray that I never have to deal with those emotions in real time.

I don’t know that I’ve ever wanted anything so badly as to protect my daughter from harm.

At the same time, I’m not naïve. I don’t want to shield her from everything. I think it’s a good life experience to go through a bad relationship and experience the highs and lows of life. I want her to see the bad and to teach her how to respond and rise above. Yet another big dream.

Maybe this is just a part of fatherhood — one of those things that other parents don’t talk about much (like seedy poop or neck cheese).

Or maybe it’s just completely experiential and you have to live it to know it.

Either way, I can’t imagine life without these big dreams and scary nightmares, and I wouldn’t go back for anything.