Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Daddy's Darling Daughter

This past weekend Maddie had her first date.

I know, I know, she's far too young to date, but I really trust this guy.  After all, he's her dad.

For years I have seen various pictures on Facebook of fathers and their daughters at Daddy Daughter Dances and I knew at some point the day would come when Maddie would have the chance to go to one herself.  They hold one at the gym we belong to every year, but Tom wasn't a member until this year.  When Maddie caught wind of the dance this year, her eyes immediately lit up and asked if she could go.  I told her she had to ask her father and before we could even get in the door and take our coats off, she was running toTom to ask him out on this very important date.

I knew he would be a little apprehensive about going since he wouldn't know anyone there, but I also have seen this man don a princess crown, boa and drink tea out of pink teacups with his pinky raised in the name of his daughter.  As he put it, how could he say "no."

He said yes to the very important invitation only a day before the event and he had to get the tickets the next day while he was at they gym working out.  He kind of made me laugh at how nervous he was.  He asked how he would know where to purchase the tickets and I told him just to go to the Activity Center desk.  He looked puzzled and asked how he would ever find it?  I informed him that not only is it not located in a secret underground tunnel at they gym, there is also a giant sign over the desk that he passes every day on his way to the locker room.

He was also concerned about the fact that he had to buy a corsage for our little princess and absolutely would not let me do it for him.  I was so impressed with how seriously he was taking his responsibility as our daughter's first date.  See, I knew he was a catch.

He was pleasantly surprised when he found out that you could purchase a corsage through the gym when you paid for registration and saved him the stress of having to go seek out someone at the grocery store to help him out.

We got the two of them dressed, Maddie's hair curled and she put on her favorite necklace and bracelet.  Before I knew it they were on their way and I didn't even have a chance to snap a single picture.  I stood there at the door as Tom's truck pulled away and was overcome with emotions.

My first thought was how fast she is growing up.  Before I know it, she will be going on dates with boys whom I absolutely do not know or trust, and I will be terrified.  I think back to the times my mom put me through a rigorous line of questioning regarding who I was going out with and will never forget her dismay at one who wouldn't even come to the door when he picked me up.  Boy, was she right about that guy.

Then I began to think of the Daddy Daughter dances I attended as a little girl and was mixed with joy and sadness.  I was joyful that my daughter had the opportunity to do things like this with her daddy and that he embraced it with absolute care and tenderness.  I never went to a Daddy Daughter dance with my own father because when he was a part of my life I'm pretty sure he either wasn't around, wasn't interested or I would have been too embarrassed to even bring him to such an event.  Eventually, I did go to a few Daddy Daughter dances with my oldest brother John.

He was a GREAT date if I had to have a "fill-in dad."  I remember so vividly my grandparents teaching us some of the "old-time dances," like the jitter-bug, to prepare us for the sock-hop.  It was an "oldies" theme dance so we couldn't just get away with the standard step-touch clap to get by.  We were versed on the twist, Fox Trot and my grandpa even showed us his soft-shoe routine.  Luckily, my brother could definitely hold his own in the dancing department and not only broke out what we had learned in our crash-course, but even did his own air guitar routine a la Eddie Van Halen.  I went from feeling like the only girl there without a "real dad" to the luckiest girl there.

I am forever grateful for all the stand-in dads I had over the years because they went above and beyond to make up for where my dad fell short.  However, it brings me absolute joy in my heart that I have chosen a man who can give my lovely daughter all the things I never had in a father.

I think that is what being a parent is all about.  We want what is best for our children and sometimes that means emulating all the important things our parents taught us, and other times it means taking the parts that might not have been so great and use it as motivation to be better.  

Once I shed a few tears, I went and spent some time with my son. I asked what he wanted to do while they were gone and he said, "Play Xbox."  We compromised and wrote in his "Dude Diary," which was an absolute riot.  It asks all these silly questions and in the end his answers all centered around banana, gorillas, bacon and eliminating all girls, especially his sister. Within a few hours Tom and Maddie were back home with stories to tell and smiles on their faces.  Luckily they did get their picture taken so I could cherish the night, but more importantly so Maddie could.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dear Past Self, Everything Turns Out Alright

Sometimes I think about what it would be like to go back in time and do things over knowing what I know now. 

Photo Courtesy of Nicole Hendricks

Like so many movies when adults go back to their adolescences or teen years and relive all the events that shaped their lives, I take this proverbial “Peggy Sue Got Married” approach to looking back on my own life and wonder what if….

Last night I had a hard time falling asleep and my mind went to that dark place called memories of high school, and I began listing off all the things I did that I may or may not have done the same if who I am today were in the same position.  After several embarrassing and painful memories popped into my head, I finally fell asleep.

Then today I was driving in my minivan on my way to have my third of four varicose vein procedures, very much my current self as opposed to my sixteen-year old self, and the song “Black” by Pearl Jam came on.  I think it was the classic rock station, but that’s beside the point. There is one line of the song that I have always loved,

I know someday you'll have a beautiful life,
I know you'll be a star in somebody else's sky,
But why, why, why can't it be, can't it be mine?”

I remember listening to this song long ago and hoped and dreamed that I would be the star in someone’s sky.  I know, typical melancholy teenager, right?  Can you just see me in my room listening to my boom box hoping for whatever boy I had a crush on at that time was listening to the very same song thinking of me? Sad, but true.

I suddenly started thinking about the past again and rather than think of all the things I would change, I thought about what I would tell my past self that might be helpful.

When I was done, I had the most amazing moment of clarity realizing I am exactly where I'd hoped I'd be.  Based on the rut I've been in over the last several months, it was a welcome revelation of just  how wonderful life is and how much I have to be thankful for.

First and foremost, I would tell her not to eat the meat in the cafeteria.  Just sayin’.  In fact, I would tell my past self all sorts of things about what not to eat.  Imagine her dismay when I tell her about the fat free or gluten free movement!  I’d spare her from all those Snackwell’s that she thought were good for her because they were low fat. 

Then I’d tell her that despite the fact she’s pigeon holed as a theater person, she’s a fabulous runner and teach her some Pilates too.  Sounds stupid, but if you knew how much worrying I did about my body back then, you would understand why I’d love to teach her two things that I discovered later in life that changed my body and made me feel better about myself.  Hell, maybe I’d even end up with a scholarship.  However, that would also probably drastically alter the universe and how my life played out. Haven’t you seen “Back To Future?”

I’d tell her which boys to stay away from like the plague, which ones ended up being a waste of her time and energy and which one’s would break her heart.  I’d be careful not to discourage her too much, after all, some of those boys were worth kissing since we all need a little heartache to make us stronger.  I’d tell her boys are really all out for one thing and one thing only, so be careful.

I’d tell her to let things roll of her back and not be so sensitive, but warn her not to take anyone’s shit.  I’d tell her to be more confident in herself.

I would tell her to surround herself with people who make her feel good and do the same for the people she surrounds.

I’d tell her which friends will last the test of time, which one’s end up stabbing her in the back and which ones she will end up being friends with on Facebook that she barely even talks to now, hoping she will give them a chance because they are actually wonderful people.

I’d tell her to avoid stonewash jeans at all costs and not to go through that whole wearing boys’ clothes stage.

I would tell her that her future husband is actually walking the halls of high school right there with her and try to avoid running up to him to see if he has any dry cleaning that needs to be taken in or if he can stay home with the kid while I go out with my friends.  That would surely freak him out.

I would tell her to go home and hug her grandparents and thank them for letting her live with them.  I would tell her to have a cup of tea with her grandma and crack a joke with her grandpa. 

I would tell her to hug her mom and listen to her; she’s smarter than she thinks.  I would tell her she might be a pain in her ass about curfew and whom she hangs out with because she loves her and worries every single second she is away from the house. I would tell her to spend time with her mom instead of running off with her friends.  I would tell her to say “thank you” to her mom for constantly correcting her grammar instead of rolling her eyes.  All that information will be useful some day when she becomes a writer.

I would tell her to work just a little bit harder at school and pay attention in math class because, despite the fact that most of it doesn’t make any sense, she WILL use math some day.

I would tell her not to try so hard to make people like her.  I'd tell her just to be true to herself.

I would tell her to save her money and never to open that credit card in college. 

I would tell her that all those times her grandpa told her to mind her P’s and Q’s, he was talking about Pints and Quarts…like as in beer…which is actually really good advice as to not make a fool out of yourself when you’ve had too much to drink.

I would tell her that she really doesn’t know everything despite what she thinks.  She has a lot to learn.

I would tell her to have more fun and stop worrying so much; youth is fleeting.

I would tell her that despite the fact that she is lost and sad, everything will be okay. 

I would tell her that even though she feels empty, one day she will be whole.

I would tell her that even though she feels lonely, one day she will be needed and surrounded by love.

I would tell her not to be so angry, life is better than you think.

I would tell her not to worry about finding “the one,” because he’s closer than you think and some day he will complete you in every way.

I would tell her some day you won’t feel like “the poor kid.”

I would tell her all the things she hopes for; a family, a beautiful home, friendship and love, will all come to her.

I would tell her she’s beautiful and special and that all the things that she is experiencing will transform her from a girl into a strong, confident, capable woman.

I would tell her not to worry so much about the future and the unknown.  I would tell her to hang tight; everything is going to be all right.