I must humbly submit that I am fraught with trepidation writing this post. Unfortunately, I don’t write much nowadays because the daily grind of life has allowed time to escape more readily than I desire. However, events of the past few months have exposed me to a predictable inevitability; kindling deep reflection that I want dutifully documented. Therefore, if you would please, bear with me because I am perhaps rusty with this blogging thing. Allow me to proceed straight away to the point – my beautiful baby girl is blossoming into a little young lady. And through this maturation, I have been overwhelmed with varying emotions. Nostalgia, sadness, joy, and pride all spiral within me, lessening and magnifying in strength depending upon the day’s mood.
Admittedly, during those seemingly perpetual days of torturous sleep deprivation, as I clung desperately to any modicum of available sleep, a friend noted that I would one day miss those days. And defiantly, I stubbornly disagreed with the absurdity. Well, the time as begrudgingly arrived. Trust me, I certainly do not long for the days of erratic and scant sleep. Nevertheless, I do yearn for those early years when that intimate connection between father and daughter was being cultivated. Now, as she grows older and establishes more independence, her dependence on me is seemingly fading. Yes – I am being overly dramatic. At only 8 years of age, she is still greatly dependent on me for a host of things. And she will be for the foreseeable future. However, as a parent of a growing child, emotion and logic sometimes don’t cooperatively coincide. So, what has me thinking and caught up in my feelings nowadays? I felt compelled to connect again with my audience and share a few thoughts below.
- Long gone are the days of putting my daughter to sleep with Kenny G softly playing in background. And gone are the days of making a small pallet on the floor next to her crib as I sleep trained and took her to potty at night. Those nights have been replaced with her escaping to our bed after a nightmare whilst elbowing and kicking me and my wife because she is a trained mixed martial arts sleeper.
- Harry the Bunny. Shushybye Baby. The Dance Time Boys. Musti. This was the era of Baby First – an educational television channel geared towards the development of babies and toddlers. Disney Junior introduced Doc McStuffins, Octonauts, and Mickey’s Playhouse and PJ Masks. Now Bluey and Firebuds are in constant rotation. I swear I watched these programs more than I watched regular adult programming. Theme music danced in my head throughout my workday. It was a great escape from the tiring grind of adult life. Ava would cuddle underneath my arm and place her tiny hand on my forearm. As she has grown older, we don’t share those moments that often anymore. However, she surprised me the other day. She plopped down on the couch beside me and said, “Can I come chill with you dad?” Chill? She’s in elementary school now, so she is picking up new lingo. She snuggled up next to my shoulder. I smiled inside.
- First, I would carry her into daycare. That soon progressed to me guiding her little staggering steps into school – sometimes still carrying her due to inclement weather conditions or simply trying to save time as I was pressed to get to work. Now, we are all the way to the point of her walking to the school bus stop. Initially, I walked her to the school bus stop, but I was hastily demoted in favor of her walking with her friends. As the weather has shifted to brisk mornings, she now prefers the warmth of my SUV until the bus arrives. Thankfully, the bus stop is literally one block over from our house. I guess I’ll wait until spring to get demoted again in favor of the girls next door.
- And speaking of demotions, I fondly recall a teacher complimenting the preparation and content of Ava’s lunches. I took great pride making her lunch the night before school day. However, I was once again wantonly stripped of my responsibilities as I was now rudely replaced by elementary school…cafeteria food? I felt like Craig being fired on his day off. The absolute, unmitigated, audacious nerve of it all! What in the tater tot casserole and non-descript pizza on an aluminum baking sheet is going on here? Nevertheless, some of my services have been retained, as I have been commissioned to pack complementary snacks for the princess. Boy have I sunk low.
- I have not even touched the topic of boys. Now, she has not openly admitted to an attraction to the opposite sex, but I was treated to an extended period of incessant chatter about her “best friend” – whom happened to be a boy – at school. Every. Single. Day. And the day he was a little mean to her – she was crushed. Teaching moment. In the distant future, I now understand I need to recruit a close confidant to have a conversation with any young men that may enter her life – we’re talking a Will Smith/Martin Lawrence Bad Boys’ style conversation. Just joking, just joking – no, not really.
Now, I completely understand all of this sounds over-the-top. However, whether I am summoning Small Potatoes (a cartoon short that used to air on Disney Junior) on my smart phone to distract and comfort her in the ER, pulling a splinter from a tiny foot, purchasing her favorite character’s Halloween costume, or cooking one of her favorite dinners (chicken& waffles); I care very deeply about being a fully present father. And dwelling within my scattered thoughts is the unreasonable fear that one day I will no longer be needed. I’m woefully obsolete. It is that intense tug-of-war between emotion and logic. Emotion dictates a converse relationship between a child growing older and my own parental worth. As her age increases, my worth and value decline. Logic then intervenes and affirms that as a parent, as a father; I will always have purpose and presence in my children’s lives. I need to cope and understand that change is indeed inevitable. Nonetheless, those changes don’t detract from my role and responsibility. I need to remind myself every now and again. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go fix my little girl some hot tea with lemon & honey to assuage a nagging cough.