It's funny how circumstances of life can show us who we really are.
I always knew I wanted to be a dad someday. I even pictured myself having a little girl first. As I sit in my living room, watching my three-year-old daughter Andi, my mind is inundated with thoughts of everything that brought me to this point in my life.
It was just over a year ago that a previous job went away, on the same day my wife started a new job of her own. As a result, I became Mr. Mom. It was one of the scariest things I'd ever done up to that point, but it has also been the most rewarding.
Until that time, I had missed so much of my little girl's life because of work, and I had a lot to learn about how to take care of her. I no longer had the luxury of waiting for someone else to do it, either. She was counting on me to feed her, encourage her and keep a smile on her beautiful face from day to day.
I was still in "fish out of water" mode when life dealt another blow to my family and me. My father, Lonnie Smith, passed away - one month, to the day, after I lost my job.
Daddy was always the kind of person who did whatever he could for his family, even if it meant sacrificing his own comfort or well-being. Suddenly, we no longer had him to lean on. I wasn't ready to let him go, but I guess no one ever is.
As unprepared as I was for his passing, I knew I couldn't drop the ball in taking care of my little girl.
Little did I know how much God would use her to help me through that time in my life. Whether she is singing along with her favorite cartoons, coming up with her latest gem of cuteness or climbing into my lap for no reason at all, she has helped me to cope with my father's passing more than anyone else.
It doesn't hurt that she is, hands down, the funniest person I've ever known. I guess I needed her to keep a smile on my face, too.
Being at home with her helped me to take my eyes off myself and put her needs first, just as my dad had done for my siblings and me when I was growing up.
In the year since my dad passed away, I've strived to make him proud and to be the kind of father my little girl needs. I'm sure I've failed more than I've succeeded. But, I know this much: once upon a time, identified myself solely as a writer, but my role as a father is infinitely more important.
I still have a lot to learn about being a dad, and I know I'll never have it all figured out. But I owe it to my little girl to give it everything I've got.
J.A. Smith grew up in Rockdale County and has worked in newspapers since 2005. He lives in Covington with his wife and daughter and can be reached at email@example.com.