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As My Daughter Grows Up Her Orbit Expands

Holidays at our house have always been happy.  That’s because we’re a small unit without a lot of moving parts and because we live hundreds of miles from our nearest relative.  For Christmas and New Year it’s usually just me, my wife, my daughter and one or two pets.   We spend our days opening presents and eating without guilt.  Our holidays would bore the hell out of most families but it’s what we do; it’s nice because we’re tight.  It’s also why when things change we can all sense it.  Our family dynamic is three people and a mutt sharing two thousand square feet.  Changes in attitude or routine are never subtle no matter how small.  This Christmas, my daughter’s fourteenth, things were definitely different.  After thirteen years of predictable and pleasant holidays it was obvious that she’d changed.  That in spite of the fact she was still aging chronologically (like every other human) her orbit around me was expanding exponentially.  My little girl was no longer that and my place at the center of her universe was shifting.

In My Element

Last Christmas and for most in recent memory, shopping for my daughter was all about megapixels and gigabytes.  There were still a few toys on the list but most of the things she wanted were techy and personal.  We looked for phones, games, software, on-line club memberships and clothes that even I had still had the good sense to pick out.  The kind of things that were right in my wheelhouse.  After she opened up her gifts we’d spend time together uploading and downloading or taking goofy photos with new our new toys.  We tormented the dog with flashing lights or remote controlled devices.  We streamed music or movies; I was in my element.

Out of My Christmas Gift Comfort Zone

This Christmas I felt like Gulliver in Lilliput.  This Christmas my wife bought just about every present our daughter got.  So after the traditional present opening our house was littered with stuff I’d never seen before.  There was evocative eyeliner and decadent eye shadow, urban lipstick and lip pencils, a myriad of make-up brushes, outrageous nail polish and topcoat, beach in a box blow dryers, gooey gels and luscious lotions. I admit I started the Dad thing a little bit later than most but this wasn’t an age thing.  I know my daughter.  But suddenly I felt like I’d just returned from a seven-year walkabout.  When did she start using all this stuff – and why?!  Now, instead of uploading and downloading tech my job on Christmas morning was to man the circuit breakers to make sure that we didn’t trip one with the new hair dryer.  Even more unsettling, my wife and daughter are bound together like peanut butter and jelly working on an aesthetic that I wasn’t expecting to see until she went off to college.

A Christmas Gift from a Special Boy

At one point during the day they both looked at me and sensing my feeling of exclusion, my wife asked my daughter, “Why don’t you show dad the necklace that L________ gave you, honey?”  My daughter thought long and hard about this, her wheels spinning so fast as she crafted an answer that her eyes started to twitch.  Then she said the craziest thing, “I don’t want to show Dad because I don’t want him to think I’m growing up too fast.”

Looking Out for Dad

Ouch.  Expertly analyzed and diagnosed by my rapidly-maturing, fourteen year-old.  No wonder I always got worked at the car dealership. Three years ago I could get her to believe that her presents came from a 300-pound guy dressed in a red suit that slid down our non-existent chimney.  And today I couldn’t hide my feelings for her growing up.  Was it that obvious?  Was she protecting me from the one of the most fundamental facts of life?  These were the questions that were racing through my brain, along with: who the hell was this boy named L________ and why was he buying her necklaces?!

She’s An Incredible Girl

So I took a deep breath and then a hard look at my beautiful, intelligent and compassionate fourteen year-old daughter (sporting highlights and a fresh blow-dry that framed her peach-tinted eyelids and strawberry infused lips?!?!) and I told her that her growing up was the most exciting thing in my life.  That every day I was able to watch her grow and share in her new adventures was priceless for me. That when she learned, I learned.  That on those rare occasions that I could offer her some advice that might save her some time or pain, I was ecstatic.  That I am not afraid of her growing up, that I am looking forward to it.  Because I know that she is going to be an amazing woman.

And I meant every word.  True.  I’m not at the center of her solar system anymore but that’s what happens. I’m not surprised by it one bit.  She’ll grow up and she’ll head out – and that day seems closer than ever to her mom and me. But until that happens, we do it one day at a time.  She amazes me every minute, her commitment to growing both inside and out inspire me to do better.  Really. She’s my hero and she knows it.  Being a teenager in my day was a piece of cake.  Today, not so much.  But she’s doing it the right way.  We’re lucky and she’s good and I’m not worried about her one bit.  They boys?  They’re a different issue….



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