My life is complicated. Today, for instance, I went on a date with a woman who’s not my wife. We’ve been talking about this date for a while but juggling so many schedules gets complicated. We’d tried to sneak out yesterday afternoon but life conspired against us and things didn’t work out. Last night I got to take her out to dinner and the best part was my wife paid for the whole thing, she even went with us.
My daughter, Emily, is 12 going on 20 and her magical power is the ability to control me with a look or a “please”. She is a ‘daddy’s girl’ and unfortunately I’m a ‘daughter’s slave’. My wife both encourages and complains about this as she enjoys teaming up with Em at the same time gets frustrated with how easy a mark I am for my daughter’s plots and plans. And I know I’m weak. And Em knows I’m weak. When her mom tells her “No.” what she hears is, “Go ask your father.” Though I’ve got the tougher standard when it comes to boys who I would prefer to never even have to talk about again until she’s 30. That’s when she hears, “Go ask your Mom.”
She started Junior High in September, grade 7, a time when everything gets turned upside down. For a long time now I’ve driven the kids to school and for the last couple years I would drive Em to grade school and when I stopped for her to get out of the car she would always tell me she loved me and give me a kiss on the cheek. First day of Junior High I pulled in to the parking lot and before I knew what happened the door was open, Em was out tossing a ‘see ya’ over her shoulder as she slammed the door closed. No “love ya”, no kiss good-bye. I just sat there in the car staring after her wondering what happened to my little girl. If the guy behind me hadn’t honked I probably would’ve started crying.
Today we went to see Shrek 3. Just me and her. She was excited for the last two days, not just about seeing the movie, but to be with me on our ‘date’. As soon as the lights went down she curled up in her seat and rested her head on my shoulder. She suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, became my little girl again. I sat there, in a very uncomfortable, back pain inducing position for as long as she wanted to sit there with her head on my shoulder. For an hour and a half I listened to her laugh, groaned with her at the corny parts and snuggled closer at the sweeter moments. Today was a sign for me that even though she’s growing up, even though she wants to be older faster than I want her to, and even though she will probably never take time in front of her friends to kiss my cheek and tell me she loves me, she’s always just a date away from being my little girl. A sign and a wonder that will sustain me during the eye rolling moments I’m usually responsible for in her life. So today I write this as my stack of stones of rememberance, an altar to what has been, can be and will be again.