Today is, Savannah’s, my youngest daughter, 21st birthday. My wife and I have gone through this four times before, with the other kids. What makes this time so significant is that this is our youngest. It marks a turning point in our lives. All our kids are now grown up. She still lives at home but she has one foot out the door. Any day, any moment, someday soon, she’ll say to my wife and I “Mom, Dad, I’m moving out” or “I’m going to leave California” or perhaps “I’m getting married” or any number of fearful thoughts that have played in my head over the years. I’ve gone through it four times before but each time was like the first. This time it will be the last. I’m a grandfather six times over. You would think I would have it down pat.
Daughters! So different than sons. A boy we understand. We’ve been there, we understand. We know what mistakes they are going to make, we know now how to correct it because we learned the hard way. We understand it too when they reject 90% of what we have to pass on, until someday in the future the light bulb goes on and they realize the “old man” knew what he was talking about. From the very beginning we raise our sons to be men. We raise them to be independent. To stand on there own two feet.
Daughters on the other hand, we raise them and try our damnedest to keep them “our little girls” despite the evidence to the contrary everyday that she is becoming a young woman. We are never, ever prepared for it. It hits us head on, like an out of control semi truck. We see the changes coming but we shake our heads in denial. A dress that means so much to them, a secret talk with mom that they just can’t share with you, or the first time you see them dressed up and ready to go to a school dance. We see the physical changes. You hear a sound coming from deep within, you know what it is, you know it’s the sound of your heart breaking as your little girl is growing up.
We are never ready for the first knock on the door either as some kid, probably a nice boy, but certainly not someone good enough for my daughter, comes to take her away from you (the little shit!). The wife staring at you with piercing eyes, pleading with you not to embarrass your daughter. What women don’t know or maybe they do, and just secretly hope that you are the man for the job despite their interference, is that it is a father’s role to be an asshole. If the father of a daughter is not known far and wide as an asshole, than he is not doing his job. When a boy comes knocking on a girls door, especially my daughter, he better already know who I am, his knee’s better be shaking and his voice better crack, at least a little. One day someone will knock on the door. It will be “the one”. It will be the one that will not go away, nor will he be intimidated. Maybe he’s already knocked. I am prepared and I am unprepared.
There comes a time with every child when we have to let go, at least on the surface, because as every father knows, you never really let go. We do come to understand though, that at some point, we have turned them over to God and the world, and we pray that everything we have taught them will finally sink in. Even more so, we pray that the mistakes we made with them will stay in the past and be forgotten. When you have done all that you can do, you have done all that you can do.
Tonight my wife Jeri and I will take Savannah, a young woman now, and her boyfriend Josh to dinner at a restaurant of her choice, she’ll probably pick Italian, it’s her favorite. We’ll laugh and talk about what ever people talk about when they are having a good time. She’ll be old enough to order a drink if she chooses but she probably won’t. I’ll be looking at her, probably holding back a tear or two. I’ll be remembering a lifetime. I’ll still see a little girl. It’s how I’m wired.
Happy Birthday Honey, From All Of Us!