Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why I suck at the dad thing


My daughter, you won’t read this. You have no Facebook nor blog nor whatever-I’m-supposed-to-be-aware-of social network, because, you know, you’re like turning eight today and stuff. Don’t take that the wrong way…you’re a hell of a reader, just not of this post. Totes McGoats.

I’m not sure how much of this I want you to see at this age, anyway. This wonderful age where Santa is real and the bad guy always loses, and hugs are awesome and sitting on Daddy’s lap is still okay and Daddy isn’t an asshole yet. Yet. (Talk to your mom about the last one…she may disagree.)

I’ll be honest, Morgan. I wanted a boy. I already had a boy. I knew how to get a boy to kindergarten, and when you were born, that was still an accomplishment for me. I hadn’t broken your brother (to follow the theme, yet). He was healthy and happy.

And I knew what it was like to be a boy. Girls? Well, girls, you guys are just…you’re just… Well, face it. You’re weird. And difficult. So very, very difficult.

When you were born, you had to stay in the hospital a few extra days because of jaundice. You entered this world with an umbilical cord about your neck and eyes bugging and skin as white as mine! (Except for the jaundice part.)

(Aside – when your brother was born and I was numb from forty something hours of no sleep, the doctor gave me a sneak peak as the boy’s head crowned…something I’d have never agreed to if I wasn’t loopy. A broad smile grew across the OBGyn’s face, and he said “Those black genes kind of dominate, huh?” Yeah, he was black – I imagine still is. Six years later, when I saw you come out as pale as moonlight - same doctor - I wanted to smack him upside the head and yell: “In your face!”)

Anyway, back to you being difficult. While you still were in the hospital, I’d received a call from your mom at three a.m., hysterical that something had gone wrong. There’d been nothing really wrong. She’d misunderstood a nurse, and apparently there’s like a bunch of hormonal and emotional crap brewing after pushing out a seven pound, seven ounce child and having hardly slept for a couple of days. That’s when I knew you were different. Your brother, my only experience with a baby before, had never been the problem you’d already shown you were going to be. Still, I was treated to a three a.m. drive to the hospital in snow on New Year’s Eve. Like I said, difficult.

And, Morgan, while I’m being honest, over the next few months, my concerns only grew. I didn’t feel the bond with you that I’d expected. I kept hearing how you’d have me “wrapped around your finger,” an exact quote from far too many people. Perhaps my contrarian intuition kicked in and I’d put up a wall, but honestly, when you were six months, I truly worried I’d have a favorite child and it wouldn’t be you.

(Spoiler alert – I don’t have a favorite child, although sometimes I’d take the dog over both of you.)

The one bonding experience we’d shared, me sitting over you and you laughing causing me to laugh causing you to laugh more, causing me to laugh more, and so on…until you started wailing. For the first few months of your life, I worried that’s how we’d be.

Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this if it turned out that way. Well, maybe, but I don’t write this out of regret or to depress the crap out of myself.

You are different in every way from me. Except for being ornery – we share that one characteristic that our family seems to love so much. But, you’re gregarious. You’re a “big” personality. You’re in every possible manner a princess when I’d vowed I wouldn’t let that happen because I’d read all the things it did about body image and self-esteem. However, you’re a princess because of that self-esteem. You know you can do anything. You don’t believe in obstacles.
In kindergarten, you were the only brave one from your age group to perform in the school talent show. Not only that, you were the only brave one who performed with nobody else on stage with them. You owned the place, despite your nerves, tap-dancing like a motherfucker. I’ll have that “Top Hat, Bow Tie & Tails” song about the alligator on my playlist for life – or whatever replaces a playlist in five years.

So now you turn eight, and the days of sitting on my lap and asking for hugs are surely coming to an end far too soon. You’ll be in third grade next year, the grade when I told your brother the truth about Santa. I don’t know that I’ll be able to tell you. I don’t want my little girl to grow up. I don’t want you to not need me anymore, because I will always, always need you. The joy you’ve brought to me, to our family, has put many things in my old-ass crotchety world in perspective. That fear that I’d had about us not bonding seems so freaking silly, but again, in my old-ass crotchety world, I still worry. I worry about the day where it’s you that it’s you who doesn’t feel that bond, at least as close as it’s become at this age. I worry that, when that time comes for you to not need me as much, I’ll know you’ll be right, and I won’t handle it as well as I should, but you’ll handle it with grace and a wisdom you shouldn’t possess, because that’s who you are.

Thank the fates you weren’t a boy. Thank them that you are who you are because I’d choose you to be in my life over and over again. Unless I had the choice of somebody who won the Powerball, but other than several million dollars, I’ll take you. (While I kid, seriously, could you win us the Powerball?)

You’ll always be my little girl, Morgan. You’ve wrapped me around your little fingers, and I don’t want to be anywhere else. I want to be with that cackling laugh and that impossible hair and with the girl who needs to double-check everything I say with your mom because I’m full of shit, apparently. You are awesome.

No matter where you go, what path you take, I’ll always hold dear the stories I told while you sat in my lap, the movies we watched with your head resting on my arm, the times you needed to cheat to defeat me at “Just Dance,” the meals where you insisted on helping even if you weren’t strong enough to hold the bowls with the ingredients.

Happy birthday, my little princess – although wouldn’t you rather be a CEO? Happy birthday, my daughter. Happy birthday to the most amazing eight-year old you could possibly be.

I love you,