My daughters have just about grown up. I know that, I appreciate it. Heck, I celebrate it. That is the whole point, right? From a practical standpoint, this parenting gig is about guiding, teaching and inspiring your children to be independent, capable, self sufficient, productive and above all, happy.
So when you see you oldest flourishing on her own, handling day to day tasks effortlessly, impressing bosses professionally and pretty much running this stage of her life with aplomb, you are proud, right? Darn right you are. And impressed. Except….. when she gets a little too good at it.
Sometimes I harken back to the days when I was the girls number one problem solver. I loved being the guy who had the answers. What Dad wouldn’t want to be their daughter’s hero and see the appreciation and admiration in their beautiful little faces?
At first, it was a lot like George Bailey gluing Zuzu’s flower petals back on the stem in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Sometimes just being clever, combined with a slight of hand did the trick. There were very few performance standards to meet and the audience was quite accepting.
Shortly after, the tasks were still relatively simple: assembling Aladdin’s “Cave of Wonder” (a voice from deep within the plastic cavern actually spoke!) or sharpening a 64 count Crayola set. Later, there were slightly more demanding projects like creating the California Mission (we wisely choose Mission Santa Alcala for the striking resemblance of its bell tower to a quart size container of low fat milk with stucco on it.)
From there, tasks morphed into things more mechanical, like centering and hanging a picture, or more technical, like installing software or fixing the computer. Eventually my competence and comfort with math was in demand, with questions on Algebra, Geometry and even some Trigonometry. Essay editing was also frequently requested.
Throughout, there was a need for answers too. The questions, as one might imagine, only got more difficult as the girls got older. But mysteries like applying for jobs, filling out colleges applications, paying taxes, buying insurance, signing contracts and choosing the best deals were all something where my expertise was not only utilized, but most definitely needed.
All this brings me to a recent exchange I had with my oldest daughter. Seems she had been interested in signing up for ZipCar, a means of occasional auto transportation where renters pay by the hour. I had once mentioned it to her, and figured at some time I would be consulted on how to sign up, the best plan, etc. In fact, I had already done my research and was already prepared to offer my recommendation to best suit her needs.
In the casual phone call, she told me she would be coming to Petaluma in a zipcar that weekend for a friend’s baby shower. Really?? But I hadn’t been consulted yet! I immediately began a litany of questions as I wondered if she had agreed to a bad deal and how difficult it might be to extricate her from the commitment the Zipcar folks had likely talked her into.
I asked her about the plan she had agreed to and found that we were at least in agreement on the best one for her. I checked if she had reserved a car as required and had selected the correct pickup location. Yes and Yes. Ok, my little girl was learning! Next I asked if she knew they had an App, and that you could extend your reservation if you are running late via the App. Yes, she said, you certainly wouldn’t want to have to pay the $50 late fee you’d be charged by returning late. Hmmm, practically took the words right out of my mouth. Instead, I countered with, “You must return the car with at least a quarter tank of gas, you know” and the gas card is attached” “to the passenger’s over head visor!” she said, finishing my sentence with just a hint of exasperation. “If you don’t need the room, take a smaller car, they’re cheaper” I offered. “Got a Hyundai” she replied, followed by, “Gotta go Dad, love you”, “Drive safely, I told her…I love you too”. I hung up, smiled to myself, and sighed. As was happening more often these days, she had this situation, too, under control. I felt just a little less, well, ….necessary.
I went to the driving range to work on my golf swing and change the pace. It can be my form of meditation, especially on such a beautiful, calm sunny day. Sometime after working on my chipping and rolling a few putts, I felt a text message go off in my pocket. While it was written in a normal text font, it seemed to speak to me with a sense of urgency. It was from my daughter, and it was quick and to the point. “HOW DO YOU TURN OFF THE WINDSHIELD WIPERS IN A HYUNDAI?” it read.
“Up or down on the stick on the right side of steering column!”, I quickly responded. A moment later came her next one: “THANKS!” with a little happy smile icon. “Welcome” I replied, noticing that I had the same happy smile on my own face. I looked down at the putt that awaited me, took a deep, satisfying breath and rolled in a 30 footer.
Happy Father’s Day, Dads. 🙂