Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Father's Lament

What’s a father to do?  Being a dad has been the most educational experience of my life.  Today, I had another lesson in my ongoing graduate program in fatherhood.

Annie, one of my four daughters, 28 years old now, needed me to help her take care of some business.  Deciding it would be better for her to drive the 80–some miles from the D.C. area to here in West Virginia, she graciously came out after she finished teaching for the day.  She usually teaches students who need special care; this week she’s teaching advanced kids.

I was in my “Father Knows Best” mode.  I had unilaterally decided, before she arrived, how best to proceed.  I figured we go in, take care of business, and be on our way in 15 minutes, 20 tops.  We enter the store, and I open my mouth to start our business.  Annie very politely took over.  Gracious, knowledgeable, and extremely savvy, she had the manager eating out of her hand in two minutes.  I made the mistake of trying to intervene and only delayed things.  She finished her business, I signed what I needed to sign, and we left.  The final transaction was nothing like I had planned.

Annie didn’t need me.  Again.  She and her fiancé live their lives capably and well.  They take care of themselves and one another, and they don’t need me.  Annie, with help only from her fiancé, has finished all the requirements and will receive her M.Ed. in graduation ceremonies on Saturday, May 21st.  She did it all with out me, with the exception of my proofing a paper or two.

Her three sisters are no different.  Each has her own home, her own career, her own car, her own friends, her own interests, her own life.  I am only a fascinated cheerleader and observer.  These four people at one time were dependent on their mother and me for everything from the roof over their heads to changing their poopy diapers.  Now I am the one, it seems, who is increasingly dependent on them for news, connection, and family—and, some day, maybe, for elder care.

I am so happy and so proud that they all have established themselves and are doing what they want to do—where and with the people they want to do it.  That’s what being an adult is all about.  I do, though, miss them, not so much as they are, but as they used to be.  When they come to visit, full of life, and news, and stories of all kinds of things that are happening to them, I am so happy to see them.  But it just isn’t the same.  They are their own people.  They are people I deeply love, but they aren’t the sweet little girls with whom I fell in love 30 some years ago.  They have their own ideas, their own opinions, their own political views.  One of them voted for McCain/Palin in 2008, an action that prompted me, first, to consider suicide, and, ever since, to wonder what the fuck I did wrong as a parent.

My baby girls are all grown up.

What’s a father to do?

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