I have always been a Daddy's girl.
Growing up, I always seemed hell-bent on being the son my dad never had. True to form, I was an awkward tomboy with a growing penchant for sports and my father's approval.
I favored Hot Wheels to dolls, soccer shorts to skirts and I smiled from ear-to-ear whenever my dad used his favorite nickname for me, "Lou."
We spent hours in the backyard throwing the football or baseball, and he was at almost every soccer game throughout my 15 years playing the sport. I could always count on his words of encouragement or suggestions for improvement while he was waiting for me on the sidelines.
To say my father and I have a few similarities to bond over would be an understatement. We share the same smile, the same freckles and the same twisted sense of humor. We are both natural bullsh*ters, as my mom often jokes.
We both thrive in conversations and we are inherent extroverts, almost to a fault.
We are, without a doubt, "cut from the same cloth," as they say. It's a quality that has only strengthened our relationship.
So, when I neared the age when I would likely begin dating, my dad would often joke, "I'll just shoot the first one and let the word get around."
In typical Father fashion, my dad was infamously overprotective of his little girl, even when I wasn't really his little girl anymore.
But, the love and admiration I feel for my dad has always come as a second nature. While our equally-stubborn tendencies often made us go head-to-head, I have always felt we could understand each other.
Of course, sometimes our fights are catastrophic and sometimes, I feel as my dad is impossible to please.
After all, he is a successful, hard-hitting and hard-working man; sharing so many similarities with him, I have always felt the pressure to stack up. I have felt an unrelenting need to make him proud.
But, with that said, the reason I will always be a Daddy's girl doesn't stem solely from our differences or similarities; it doesn't come from the fights or the hours spent playing ball in the backyard.
The reason I will always be my father's daughter is because he was the first love of my life.
He has dedicated every minute since I was born to being my protector, my friend, my guide, my toughest critic and my coach.
My father taught me to be tough, even during moments I felt entirely weak. He taught me to stand up for myself, and he called attention to the times I allowed my kindness to be taken advantage of.
He helped me become the fiercely independent woman I am today because he needed to be sure I would be able to protect myself whenever he is no longer around to do so.
I will always be a Daddy's girl because we bring out the best in each other, even when we don't like to admit it.
I help to soften his hard exterior. I am his sounding board and will always provide a touch of humor to his harder days.
My dad, on the other hand, gives me the harsh reality I sometimes don't think I can handle. He keeps me stay grounded and motivated, and he will always come through for me in the moments I need him.
I know my dad will always, in some way, be in my corner.
That's not to say it's always easy. There have been times I hated his overprotective nature, and there have been times I questioned his character in a way that broke my heart.
There have been times I didn't think he was being fair, and there have been times I thought he was too hard on me. But, those moments will pass. Our relationship has always pushed through any hardship we created in its way.
No matter how many times I have pushed back or denied his parenting, he is always the #1 man in my life. I am eternally grateful for the love he never ceases to provide.
Of course, as I grow older, our relationship changes. I am no longer a little girl seeking constant protection or guidance, and I have finally paved my own way. But I know that I would have never gotten here without my dad.
I know I will never stop needing him, and I know he will never stop needing me, even if the hours we spent bonding over sports or shared jokes have transitioned into occasional breakfast dates, weekend trips home and nightly texts to tell each other about our days.
Regardless of years passing, my dad will always provide the best advice, be my best judge of character and be my best friend.
He will always tell me to knock it off when I'm being unreasonable, he will always provide a critical prescreening of potential love interests, and he will always be my rock.
I can never properly thank him for the guidance he's provided to shape my character as I entered into adulthood, and I can never make up for the times I was an undeniably huge pain in the ass as a kid.
But, I can say this: Thank you for being you, Dad.
Thank you for believing in me, even when I didn't believe in myself. Thank you for always helping me to mend my broken heart and teaching me not to sweat the small stuff.
Thank you for talking me down whenever I suffered a self-induced psychological breakdown over exams or some other stress. Thank you for always challenging me, even if I didn't appreciate it at the time.
Thank you for every practice and every game you ever attended. Thank you for every text and email you've sent to check in on me.
Thank you for bringing so much humor into my life, always making sacrifices for me and Mom and all the little things you do for us every day that often go unnoticed.
Thank you for always reminding me I am a strong, capable and intelligent woman, and someone you are proud to call your daughter.
Thank you for your patience and for loving me, relentlessly, even during the times I made it hard for you to do so.
Most of all, thank you for being my father in the way only you can.
Please remember that no matter what, I will, in some way, always be your little girl.