My eldest daughter turned fifteen yesterday. Fifteen. How she get to be fifteen? When did she change into a young woman and how did I get so old?
I’ll use a short form of the nickname I used for her through her early years and just call her Bug. A beautiful, thoughtful, quirky Bug. My Bug.
Bug’s only request for her birthday was dinner at the Mandarin. She said anything we give her will be great. No outrageous requests, no big parties, no big gifts, just dinner at the Mandarin and maybe an ice-cream cake if we had time.
Did we really manage to raise her like this? How did we do it? More importantly are we able to repeat it with our youngest, ‘Red’?
Fifteen. One year away from sixteen and her licence.
One year removed from her grade eight prom.
Ten years removed from when we loaded her onto the school bus for the first time. All by her teeny tiny self. That same self that was told to remain seated at all times on the bus and was afraid to get in trouble so she missed her stop at the end of the day by staying dutifully in her seat.
Eleven years removed from running from the room when her favorite cartoon character, Arthur (think Leave It To Beaver animated), got in trouble.
Twelve years removed from pronouncing caterpillar ‘peeko peeko’.
Fourteen years removed from me pacing the livingroom at one in the morning softly whistling songs like John Lennon’s Imagine, Chad and Jeremy’s Summer Song and The Platter’s Good Night Sweetheart, trying to get her to sleep.
Fifteen years removed from changing my life on father’s day no less. Something she continues to do each day. I am constantly amazed, surprised and proud of her. She has a good head on her shoulders and a strong sense of tradition. Respectful, creative, kind and talented. How in the hell did that happen? I know the actual chemistry and mechanics behind her coming into being, but how did she become this… beautiful young woman? And why do I suddenly feels so old?
She has good style sense and yet I shudder at the adultness of it. I grit my teeth at the word boyfriend and tell her to consider this, grade nine boys are essentially her cousin (ten years old) only taller. And when they come around, I puff out my chest and scowl. Fear is a powerful tool when trying to instill respect, or just to instill fear. But I fear it’s starting to look ridiculous. Overweight, graying, old man = not very intimidating. I can hear it now, “What do you do Mr. Long?” I write, “Oh.”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud to be a writer but when chest pounding around a young upstart, one with eyes on my daughter, I’d like to say, “I wrestle alligators just for fun.”
I makes me cringe to think of my high school days. I was respectful but still a teenage boy. I have new respect for my father-in-law and even more respect for my mother-in-law for seeing beyond that teenaged awkwardness. I can relate with my father having to repair mysterious holes in the drywall when my sister was in her teens ;). I’ll settle instead for hitting softballs further than the young bucks and thankful for the genes that allow me to carry that added weight not around my middle. For making me tall enough to look imposing. For knowing my Bug is smart enough to know better.
And yet I still feel old.
Happy Birthday Bug! I’m proud of you. If the sky is the limit, then reach for the stars. I know you’ll succeed at whatever you do.