It’s not often you see an ad out in the real world that genuinely roots you to the ground.
Usually, an advertisement on a bus stop would elicit within me little more than a half second glance – if that – before my attention would turn once again to my mobile phone, or the bus due 15 minutes ago but yet to arrive.
But on a slightly-too-cold Tuesday evening in Sydney, a vertical advertisement for a young girl’s toy stopped me in my tracks.
Now, full disclosure: I’m well aware Barbie are sponsoring this article. But lower your pitchforks, at least for a moment. Because after spotting that advertisement, I walked into Mamamia HQ the next morning desperate to talk to anyone and everyone about Barbie’s new ad campaign; about how it made me feel something.
I wasn’t aware they were one of our brand partners. Pinky promise.
Being a sports-loving toddler, I always favoured a soccer ball over a doll. Be they male or female, figurines never really managed to grab my interest. And while there are of course exceptions, I’d say this is the case for most young boys.
Given my disinterest then, and the fact I’m at the ripe old age of 19 now, the concept of playing with a doll hasn’t once crossed my mind. Simply put, ‘they haven’t been – and never will be – on my radar’. Or so I thought.
"Time spent in her imaginary world is an investment in her real world."
They're the words that lie below an image of a father and daughter playing, on the aforementioned ad.
Rather than flying in one ear and out the other - as most slogans do - this one sort of took hold with me. Because they're the things we remember, as grown-ups. They're the things that craft us as people.
For those of us lucky enough to have had stable homes, we remember the times our parents immersed themselves in our magical little worlds: the time mum ran beside us on our bikes as we learnt how to pedal; the time she kicked the footy with us and pretended we were kicking goals in front of a crowd of thousands; or the time dad sat down and helped us build the biggest block tower in the world.
These are the moments that, upon reflection, stick out more than others. They're the moments that taught us about relationships and turn-taking and speaking politely and problem solving.
All the fights, disagreements, and niggles become eclipsed. Memory seems to favour the positive.
It's not all about 'making memories', however. The relationship I want to have with my young daughter - if and when I have her, of course - goes far beyond giving her mental snapshots upon which she can reminisce throughout her adult life.
A study by Wake Forest University in the USA showed that girls who have a strong relationship with their father early on are more likely to graduate from college, and enter the workforce at a higher position. They're also more likely to develop stable relationships - especially with men - and have higher self-esteem, according to the study.
Sure, I want to play pretend with my future daughter so she loves me; I want to play dolls (or cars or footy) with her to build the foundations of a positive relationship between we can carry through life. I want her to confide in me when she's sad, shout for me when she's hurting, and call me when she's lost.
But I also want to play pretend - to immerse myself in her imagination - so she learns what the world might actually hold.
When she mentions her doll is going to grow up to be a princess, I want to be there to tell her the doll could be a football player. Or an electrician. Or a CEO.
When she pretends her doll is cooking in a kitchen, I want to be there to tell her she could own the restaurant.
I want to watch her grow up and form ideas and be beside her to help her form them.
That's the kind of dad I want to be.
What makes a good dad? Tell us in the comments section below.
For 58 years, Barbie has been a conduit to imagination and self-discovery for young girls. After more than 150 inspirational careers, Barbie – along with her friends and family – continues to inspire and encourage the next generation of girls that anything is possible.