COLUMN: A proud father (from afar)

By Kyle Roberts

Something magical happened this past weekend, and sadly, I was two states away from all the fun and festivities.

My oldest daughter, Alice, participated in Miss Louisiana as one of the Fleur-de-Lis girls for Miss Louisiana Tech, Chanley Patterson, who graciously asked her to be part of her big night a few months ago.

Our connection to the Patterson family runs decades-long: Chanley’s mother Jeanne was my piano teacher growing up, and I am so greatly indebted to her for never giving up on my when I was an awful student.

So, it was a proud papa moment for me to see Alice on stage Saturday, escorting a Miss Louisiana contestant multiple nights last week, albeit in Alabama with buddies playing golf.

Now, full disclosure: I know nothing at all about pageants (even less than horse racing, if you believe it). In fact, nobody in our family has any previous experience with pageants. This was a first for all of us.

If you’ve met my oldest, however, you already know there’s nothing she can’t do.

Play piano? Check. Sing? Check. Spend 39 hours over four days at Miss Louisiana in Monroe? Big check.

But that’s not why I’m proud of her. One of the things that all parents notice over time is how much they turn out to be like you, whether you want it or not.

In my case, I had noticed over the last couple of years that she was beginning to struggle with her appearance. As a ten-year-old. It’s crazy because her mother and I constantly (almost annoyingly so) remind her that A) we think she’s incredibly beautiful and B) outward beauty is nowhere near as important as inward beauty.

Knowing this, she still put herself in a position where she would be dressed up in a beautiful white ball gown and walk around a stage in front of cameras, lights, and strangers she had never met. And by all accounts, she thrived this weekend. I’m so proud of her for that, because it’s a vulnerable place to put herself.

For years, I have struggled with body image and my appearance. It’s one reason I love the idea of doing radio and writing stories— I don’t have to look for a double chin or see how far my spare tire has spilled over my belt.

But it’s jarring to see that rub off on your own kid. And eye-opening.

She’s about to hit some formative years where she’ll need to have an internal confidence that her daddy is adding to and not taking away. I owe to her to stop worrying about how I appear and focus on the person I am.

I’m asking both my girls to do that; it’s time to lead by example.

We don’t know if we’ll ever do a pageant again, and that’s okay. The experience for her, Judith, and Penny (who cheered her little heart out for Chanley) was great, and I’m proud they were able to be part of the event.

Even away for the weekend, they were all in my heart. A proud father and husband, who is going to commit to real introspection.