After a busy day at work – I rushed home to get as many chores done as possible before dark. I pulled into our driveway and called for my daughter, who was at her grandmother’s house in the back. I explained to her that we had things to do and that I needed her help. She initially freaked out about having to do homework, but I told her it would be ok to take a break from homework tonight.
Up first was a trip to the park with the dogs.
“Let’s go by the school instead,” she said. So we did. Our daughters’ school is attached to a massive plot of land where we sometimes take the dogs to sniff around and chase frisbees and balls. When we arrived, there were some boys on the playground. I drove to a remote area of the field and we unloaded the beasts. At that point, the boys started to run toward us. Naturally.
“Ok, well, we don’t really want other kids back here, missy, we just need to stretch the dogs out.” I said.
“I know, Daddy.” she replied. And then, in the direction of the boys running our way, she shouted, “STAY AWAY FROM HERE, AARON! JUST GO BACK.” The boy at the front of the pack heading toward us did exactly as she commanded. Without hesitation. We walked to the back of the park, exercised the dogs and talked. At one point I just stood looking at her as she chased the little dog in the field. She turns 11 next month. I took her to get her braces on Tuesday. It was there, after sitting next to her for two hours staring at the side of her face, that I noticed slight imperfections in her complexion. Hormones are starting to bubble. She’s changing into a beautiful young girl. And it’s fine. I am not trying to hold on. It’s good enough just to be a presence for her as she climbs her way up the slippery walls of childhood and into adolescence.
Walking back to me from where she was with the dog, I saw her age. Every step, a year. By the time she’d reached me, she was 25. We walked, slowly, back to the truck and loaded up the dogs. As we left the school she told me about a boy.
“It’s the reason I wanted to come here tonight, instead of the park.” she said. She told me his name, and that he was indeed on the playground.
“Was he one of the boys running over to us?” I inquired.
“Yes. But not Aaron.” She said. “Anyway, I just wanted him to see me with my dogs.” She went on to tell me a little about him, and I didn’t get jealous. I knew this day would come. But in the span of two days, I feel like I’ve watched her change more than at any point in her life. She confided in me about the boy. I felt good about that. Like I’d done something right. Which is surprising, really. Before she was born I didn’t even like kids.
Now I can’t imagine life without them. My wife and daughters absolutely make me a better man.
Then, as we pulled into our driveway, she randomly said, “I really love you, Daddy.”
And my heart jumped out of my chest.