Dads are supposed to be protectors.
How many times have you heard about fathers meeting their daughter’s date before the date? How many times do nervous young men sit down with fathers, asking for a daughter’s hand in marriage? Men understand other men. Fathers know what make for good husbands, or they should.
Why didn’t Zahra Baker’s father know what makes for a good stepmother? How could he know so little in terms of who was around his daughter, now dead? I have more questions for Adam Baker than a prosecutor will for the stepmother, Elisa Baker.
I do my best to protect my daughters. Do I know who they play with on the playground at school? Do I know who their ballet teacher is married to? How close do I live to a sexual predator? Those are jobs I own, though ones at which I might not be excelling. I think it’s a shame that I should have to think that way.
If Elisa Baker had anything to do with the death of poor Zahra, then what kind of protector was the “innocent until proven guilty” father, Adam Baker.
“There's no way I would do that to my baby,” Adam Baker told WBTV. “There's no way in the world I would hurt my daughter.”
My anxious mind and heart enter each new year of my daughters’ lives with the knowledge that I’m supposed to know more than them. I’m supposed to have them engulfed in safety, inside or outside the walls of my home. The world’s become a scary place. It’s no longer the “Leave It To Beaver” world of the 1950s and 60s for today’s children.
Zahra Baker should be living like a kid, enjoying new experiences that come with each new day of the new year. But a family and community in the North Carolina mountains rang in 2011 with one less loved one.
Her stepmother spent the first few days of 2011 trying to find a way to lower her bail on charges unrelated to Zahra’s death and is now charged with bigamy. And she told her aunt that she and Adam Baker “went wild” after the death of his cancer-surviving 10-year-old daughter.
If you, as a father, haven’t made a resolution for 2011, add one to your list. Be a better father. Resolve to accept the duty of protecting your child. Don’t leave them sitting on a gun, as a father in Wake County did in December 2010. Don’t take your eyes off of them when they’re playing in your yard. Don’t leave them with people you don’t know.
Baker’s father hasn’t been charged with any crime…yet. Zahra’s blood is as visible on her “protector’s” hands as is the absence of joy in Catawba County, felt by those who knew little Zahra.
Jay Hardy is the father of a six-year-old and a baby in Holly Springs. He's a former sports photographer and reporter for WRAL-TV. Find him here once a month on Wednesdays.