She weighed 3lbs. 13ozs. Do you know how small that is? I could hold her whole body in the palm of my hand; she held my whole heart in the palm of hers. When she first came home, we had to weigh her every single time she ate, just to make sure she held her own. My tough girl never went backward.
As she grew, my girl and I had a blast. We danced, we sang silly songs, we got goofy together—we were a team. I, manly man that I am, made sure she was elegantly coiffed in my patented super-duper-upside-down ponytail. I had the whole Daddy-Daughter thing down pat.
Then cameth the thirteenth year.
Don’t get me wrong—Carissa is an awesome girl, and we have a fantastic relationship. It’s just…different now. Somewhere along the line, the things that used to delight her became…well…embarrassing. Dancing together, singing together, telling her I love her, even smiling at her in public—things she used to love now earn me a look of reproach, a pinch, or even a slug.
O.K., so maybe she’s right…a little. It seems that parenting changes as the child does. She’s still my little girl, just not little enough to hold in my hand. That’s a good thing, right? I mean, a thirteen-year-old girl small enough to hold in my hand—that would present a whole new set of problems.
Years ago, the city planted some trees on our block. Each sapling was tied to two strong posts set deep in the ground, to keep the young tree from blowing over when the winds came. The trees are now thick and strong, but some are still tied to their posts. It looks silly, and it hurts the tree.
Being a Daddy worthy of the calling means parenting for her best, not mine. I don’t always like that, but I’ve accepted it—for now. So I’ll deal with her calling me “Dad,” after a lifetime of “Daddy.” I’ll put up with her walking ahead of me (sometimes) so she can talk to her friends. I’ll even—gritting of teeth—let her wear lip gloss—in microscopic amounts. Let us not even talk about what happens when some young twerp shows up trying to court my girlie. If I stay out of prison, I’ll call myself blessed.
I must say, it’s kind of fun, watching her grow. Recently, she and I were in a musical together for a local community theater. It was odd, but neat, being known as “Carissa’s Dad.” Standing back and watching her sign autographs, I wanted to shout out, “That’s the beautiful princess of my heart!” I did not, for which my daughter should thank me.