Never forget these moments. We all have them. Sometimes we realize their significance only long after they’re gone.
My beautiful, intelligent, accomplished, experienced, mature 23-year old daughter acquired a rescue dog the other day. A handsome male some-kind-of coon hound. He’s a sweet dog, with a beautiful disposition. His name is Kepler — after the astronomer — and I certainly fell for him just about as soon as I met him.
Anyway, my daughter was telling me how she’s training him. As she explained it, the training was going well, because Kepler is a certain kind of hound who “looks for leadership,” and who “sees her as his pack leader.”
Okay. Several days went by, when over the phone my girl told me of an incident that happened, and of how she handled it, reminding me of how Kepler views her as his pack leader. That was the point at which I (jokingly) told my once-little girl(1) that I was Kepler’s pack leader’s pack leader.
There was a pause.
Then she said, “Yes, but he knows I’m his pack leader.”
There were a billion years of meaning, learning, training, suffering, triumph, tragedy, toil, exultation… life in that tiny, one-second or so, pause. It was the pause that says, without actually saying it, “How do I respond to this without hurting my daddy’s feelings?”
As parents, we do our level best to turn “life” over to our young ones. In the beginning, we tie their shoes, feed them, play with them, fix their meals, buy their clothing, teach them to ride a bike, to drive a car, stay with them on the phone in their first days at college, drive them to their graduation, help them move into their apartment. We spend all their young lives turning their lives over to them.
Then she says, “[pause] Yes, Daddy, you’re my pack leader, but Kepler doesn’t know that,” and you realize that she just placated you, as you did to your father, and he did to his mother, and so on… for eons. She as much as patted you on your graying noggin, walked you over to your rocking chair, handed you your slippers and pipe and said, “Sit down while we take care of things.”
I haven’t been her “pack leader” for years now. But, I’ve been a close adviser, a confidant, an anchor in her storms, a safe shore to relax, where she knows she’ll always get a happy greeting, a decent meal, honest perspectives, some beloved eccentricities, and… unconditional love.
Yes, we bend all our efforts to turning their lives over to them… to have, to hold, to care for and to nourish… but sometimes it hurts like all heck when they show that they already took control over their own lives, long before we were ready to relinquish it.
I wasn’t ready to be a daddy. Then I wasn’t ready to be the daddy of a teenager. Then I wasn’t ready to be the daddy of a young lady. Then I wasn’t ready to be the daddy of a young woman. Then I wasn’t ready to be the daddy of a wonderful young woman… who doesn’t need a daddy.
I’ve spent so much of my adult life not being ready!
Shouldn’t there have been a ceremony somewhere? “Assembled multitudes, I xPraetorius, hereby transfer control of all aspects of her life to Lieutenant My Daughter, with all ranks and privileges that accompany that life…” And so on…
Yeah. That never happened. As if I had it to transfer! But I did have her life, her future, her mind, her heart, all in my hands at one time!
Still, this is all I’ve ever wanted for her. But it happened before I even knew it had happened. Without warning, with no meeting invitation, with no institution e-mailing me that it was about to happen, and that my timely response would be appreciated.
“Yeah, Daddy… you’re still my ‘pack leader.’”
Time to go watch my son play volleyball.
(1) Lieutenant in the Army, honors military graduate from a prestigious university, distinguished military graduate from that same prestigious university, decorated AIT graduate… and more. 🙂