Our Story Begins:
A Dad’s Dilemma: When She Goes From Cute To Beautiful

The strangest thing happened this week.  I realized that my daughter isn’t “cute” any more.  That’s a really hard thing for a Dad . . . hell, any parent . . . to come to terms with, having to tell people that their daughter’s not cute any more.

Believe me, she was adorable.  She wore pig tails.  She had an adorable little frown that stopped me from taking her disappointment and sadness seriously because it was just so . . . damn. . . cute!  When she was happy it was like visiting Disneyland.  I worked Tuesday through Saturday, so I always had Monday  just Abbi and me.  We called it our “Abbi/Daddy Day.”  We’d go to the park.  We might fly a kite.  Then we’d end the day, always, in Omaha’s Old Market area eating at the local ice-cream parlor.  She’d have vanilla.  I’d have cinnamon or malt ice-cream in a homemade waffle cone.

When Andrea, my wife, passed away last year I  had major worries that it would have an impact on those days and feelings.  For her, the changes didn’t end with losing her Mom, either.  We couldn’t afford the private high school she attended any more so she was thrust into the fully social world of a co-ed high school.  Homecoming, prom, all these things became socially important.  They became part of the lexicon of her memories and I had a hand in altering them, for better or worse.



The day  Andrea died, I saw the change begin, I can see it now, in hindsight.  I delayed it for over a year, though.  I know she could tell something was up, but like her father watching things transpire in the hospital, she hoped beyond hope that my gathering them together wasn’t to give them that news.  Unfortunately, that was a burden I had to bear.  I wear a few more years than my age belies from the last year, but I bear them gladly because it delayed the transformation.  You see, Abbi, that first day, tried to take on the role of their Mom; something she was unprepared for and I refused to allow.  While she gathered her brothers and sister next to her, I grabbed her hands and drew them all to me instead.

It took a semester, but the change of schools had Abbi finding a better place and friendship and belonging.  In today’s social media world, where old schoolmates told her daily how much they missed her, that clean, easy, break was not possible.  It took months for the trickles of emails, Facebook posts, and texts to start to wane.

Then this week it finally happened.  That cute little girl went away.  I should have seen it coming, but it just caught me by surprise.



Abbi got asked to the Homecoming dance by a friend, something she was so excited about.  “I’d rather go with a guy who’s a friend because it’s so much less awkward,” she told me.  I wish I’d thought of that years ago.  It only made sense to me when I met her mother who had been one of my best friends.

We had to get Abbi a dress for Homecoming this year.  We couldn’t use the prom dress.  I did my duty.  I went into H&M with Abbi and felt like I was an old man.  We went into boutique shops and I felt even older.

Then we found the dress.  Abbi walked out of the dressing room just as they shut out the lights for the night at the mall.  As the distorted voice grumbled “we are now closing” inside the Nordstrom, Abbi walked into view and it happened.

She was no longer cute.

She was beautiful.


For the first time I saw the little girl was gone.  I saw – like her Mom at nearly the same age – a beautiful woman in a fun, flirty, gorgeous dress.

“You look amazing, Abbi,” was all I could muster.


“Absolutely.  The dress is cute and you look beautiful.”

“It’s so expensive, though.”

I couldn’t resist.  We bought it.

And then I saw it.  On the way back to the dressing room, she did it.  Just a little.  I saw her twirl the flared bottom of the skirt so it spun around and wrapped her legs, back and forth just like when she was that cute little girl.  All I could think, at that moment, was how much she resembled her mother.

What about you?  Have you noticed cuteness eroding?  Are you prepared for that change in your child?

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Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California.  A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins, is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.