Our Story Begins:
What’s In A Number?
I realized something just last night as I came home from a long day and I have to be honest with you. It completely freaked me out.
My little girl, firstborn child, daughter, is only three years younger than I was when I became her father. I walked in the door after a particularly long and exhausting day and most of my evening routine was the same. I’d made dinner already, yet they’d all eaten. My daughter had seen to it. I suddenly saw the adult and not the child.
There are weird parallels here. When I was 20 I stayed and worked in my college town because I was gaining journalistic and production experience at a TV station. This year my daughter only had a few weeks home and she’s going back to work on a grant over the summer.
Yet for some reason when I see the grown-up that is now simply visiting my household I still see the little girl up there. The tiny person who spent “Abbi/Daddy day” on Monday because her Mom was in school. The same person who went to the ice-cream parlor or went to Memorial Park and held on with the tiniest of hands I could imagine and grabbed the two handles off of a spool of string while she watched me run and launch a kite into the air. The little girl who used to sit in her car seat and yell “Daddy…SING!” while I was in the car and would giggle while waiting for me to sing either a nursery rhyme or some blues song I’d been rehearsing the night before she didn’t care which.
I see that girl . . . but in reality, today, I saw this woman instead:
It is a hard thing to realize that the little girl you tried so hard to protect . . . whom you had to grow up so quickly for . . . is suddenly an adult. You don’t want to admit that, she’s only 20 (near 21) so that cannot really be considered an adult, right? Yet it dawns on me . . . I was only 24 when she was born. I was making it up as I went. I just had to act like I knew what I was doing.
To be honest, I never felt like a real adult, either. Even now . . .when I walk around I am thinking this:
(Okay, minus the bad long-hair days) Yep…that’s my baby girl in my arms. I think this picture but what I see and am confronted with when I look in the mirror is this:
It becomes abundantly clear that I’m 40-something when I see myself. I feel the pain in my back from years of carrying hundreds of pounds of gear. I wonder how I made it without killing all these little kids, I don’t have an adult mentality. I didn’t read parenting books and the internet didn’t exist. I used my parents as examples because, let’s face it, they were adults. It never dawned on me that “hey, Dave, guess what? You grew up!”
That’s when it hit me: none of us know what we’re doing. Not really. That is a necessity, too. If we tried to parent everyone from a straight instruction manual it just wouldn’t work because every kid is different. Every child needs a different kind of care and a different hand. It’s why I find myself missing having my wife’s presence because she could fill in the gaps I’m only now beginning to fill.
I look and I realize something else: that little girls has turned into a pretty tremendous woman. She’s far more an adult than I was at her age. That’s the greatest accomplishment I can ever have achieved.
What about you? Do you see your kid growing or do you still think of them as your little ones?