I sit by the side of the pool and watch you twirl our 2-year-old daughter through the blue waves. Her delighted giggles shriek through the air, punctuated only by cries for, “Again, Daddy! Again!” As your own laugh accompanies hers, I can’t help but feel a smile spread across my face.

I always knew you would be a good father. But I don’t think I ever realized what a great father you would be for a daughter.

I can remember the first time we discussed children, lying on the couch, our fingers lazily intertwined, still in the hazy dating days when babies and our real adult future still seemed so far away. Truthfully, I can’t remember who brought up the topic first, but eventually, the question came out, “How many kids do you want?”

Your answer was playful but tinged with a simple undertone that you most looked forward to having a son. I rolled my eyes, typical man.

Fast-forward years (or was it a lifetime?) later, rings on our fingers and my belly beginning to swell as we waited for the announcement as to whether our first child would be a boy or girl. I was secretly hoping that pink confetti would fly out, but a tiny, nagging doubt tugged at the corner of my mind: What if you were disappointed?

No sooner had the thought entered my mind when our friends set off a dozen confetti poppers, showering us in blush and gold paper. My eyes filled with happy tears and I turned to face you, searching your eyes for any signs of regret. My heart swelled when I realized your own eyes were shining as you grinned and whispered in my ear, “A daughter!

Three years later, watching you play with our girl, I realize I should never have worried. Despite the trepidations, we both shared, “girl dad” is a role you have blossomed into.

Because you realize the importance of your example in her life.

I once said to you that you would set the standard for how our daughter would expect men to treat her for the rest of her life. That responsibility weighed heavy on you at the moment, and it has become a mantle I watch you carry to the best of your ability every day.

Not only do you make time for our daughter’s smallest feelings, but you can often be found stooped to her level, intensely engaged in a game of pretend or simply listening to her ramblings for minutes on end. Every day, you teach her to expect respect, love, and loyalty from the people (but especially the men) she lets into her life.

Because you are my perfect partner in parenting.

If roughhousing with dad is really as good as they say, our daughter is going to reap benefits in spades. While our daughter still turns to me for soothing, cuddles, and singing Disney songs at full volume as we cook dinner—you are the playmate she craves when she’s feeling a little wild.

You are the one who throws her high into the air, who pushes her on the swing with full gusto as she begs to go even higher.

You are the one who “forgets” to always remind her to be careful, instead encouraging her to see how far her own confidence can take her. I may hold my breath most of the time I watch you play together, but I’ve learned to embrace our different parenting styles when I see how your tactics foster the brave little girl I’ve always hoped to raise.

Because you open doors for her I would never be able to find.

The same way you and I make each other a more well-rounded couple, you expose our daughter to worlds I know nothing about. When she begs for you to take her to the basement to pound on your drum set or I catch her running through the house swiping at anything on the floor with her hockey stick, I’m reminded of how much she would miss out on without a father like you.

It is a joy watching you pass your own passions onto her—and a firm reminder that, despite any initial fears, you don’t need a son to have a partner in crime.

Because watching you help raise our daughter is one of my greatest blessings.

While, as the full-time parent, I will always take on the lion’s share of keeping our family running every day, it was clear from the start that you intended to be a hands-on dad.

While some of our male friends bragged about never changing a diaper or sleeping through the night without issues, you were always there to step in when you saw me crumbling under the stress of sleep exhaustion or frustration. As a result, you are a father that our daughter sees as approachable, accessible, and incredibly loving. It fills my heart daily to watch you reinforce this perception by holding yourself to an incredibly high standard of fatherhood.

All these thoughts and more run through my mind as I watch you continue to splash with our daughter, encouraging her to face her fear and jump off the side into your waiting arms.

I may never know what comes next as a parent, but one thing I do: You will always be there to catch her.