My four-year-old daughter has a crush on the next door neighbor’s young son, Carson, who’s six. The other day, she was playing in the front yard with him when I looked out the window and noticed that she was standing at the edge of the yard by herself. I didn’t think anything of it.
About 10 minutes later, I noticed she was still lingering at the edge of the yard, so I mentioned it to my wife.
“I guess she’s just having a little alone time,” she said.
Finally, after 10 more minutes, I went outside and asked my daughter what she was doing.
“I’m waiting for Carson,” she said. “His mommy said he had to go inside, but he would come back out to play with me.”
My heart broke a little for her. When Carson’s mom said he would be coming back out, my daughter had taken her quite literally; but even after I explained that he was coming out eventually, she still insisted on waiting.
“She said he was coming back out, Dad.”
After 10 minutes of standing there at the edge of our lawn together, my daughter gave up, and we went to the garage. She sat down in a chair and got really quiet as I cleaned. I knew she was sad, and I knew why, but there was nothing I could do about it. It stung to see her working through the disappointment, and as I looked at her, I couldn’t help but think about an adult female friend of ours who’s waiting on a boy right now.
When she was a little girl, everyone told her that he was coming — that she would grow up, and he’d just be there, waiting for her. She heard it at church, in movies and even in schoolyard rhymes: First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.
She took the world at its word (why wouldn’t she?), and during college, she assumed she had all the time in the world to wait for that boy to show up. But now she’s kissed her early 20s goodbye, and she’s still standing there waiting.
Some of those boys got married and grew up to be responsible husbands and fathers. But a scary number of them are moving into adulthood and shrugging off any woman who doesn’t meet their idealized fantasy of the semi-perfect wife. To those guys, please hear the heart of this dad: Someone’s lovely daughter is waiting on you right now. She’s just standing there believing you’re on your way, and she’s already doing her part to meet you halfway.
I realize that our culture has thoroughly convinced you that your life is all about your personal fulfillment, and marriage to anyone less than your ideal will constitute an intolerable act of settling, but please consider that real life might actually be about serving others. And if it is, then maybe one of the best ways to get on with real life is to let go of your imaginary girlfriend, choose to see the beauty in real women, and end the long wait for a good lady who will be a blessing to you for the rest of your life.
Go out there and find that grown-up daughter who still believes you’re on your way. She’s going to be grateful you finally pulled yourself together and showed up — and I bet her father will be, too.
This post originally appeared at Boundless.org.