My daughter the pre-teen has harder edges these days. The mop top hair and leap of joy onto lap that was never ready has been replaced by a more cautious voice…a voice that’s rising to meet days with challenge to rules, parental authority…and boundaries.
The wonder of…touching the sky…individual blades of grass…catching snowflakes with open mouth…is being replaced by measure of cynicism. The hardening is the humanity – the real world – the tough life lessons that tell us life isn’t all gum drops and lollipops. I wish gum drops and lollipops was more enduring.
I’m selfish. As much as I want her to know her Dad is around whenever she needs to talk…a ride somewhere….some soccer tips, I simply crave a glimpse back to a time when she loved me with such an unconditional explosion of smile energy. I want to love my daughter the way I used to…hang her upside down by feet and sweep the floor with strawberry blond curls….lick the cookie dough beaters together beside the sink…visualize that unrestrained wave back and blown kiss before getting on the school bus
This past Father’s Day I thought about what I wanted most. What I most wanted was time. You can’t get it back. It moves forward, and the momentum gets louder the further my daughter’s eyes look beyond the door to things, friends and attachments that aren’t me.
I know, don’t romanticize. A father-daughter relationship is like a constantly changing recipe. Kids have to grow up. It’s been said there are two things you can give to your children: one is to give them roots, the other is to give them wings. While I know I’ve gone from provider to nurturer….from diapers to huffing and puffing the breeze under the butterfly’s wings….love feels different. It feels less sure of itself, more insecure about its future, and less visible. I have to tell myself that love changes, and it grows in different ways. Those ways simply become a little more complex, a little less light on the air.
With these thoughts run amok in my head, tonight I tried to get close. It’s a bit like trying to get close to a wild deer. A pre-teen is a bit skittish and doesn’t want you to do unexpected things like put your soul into a hug. As an aside I’m reminded by the one-liner: “Never go into a hug off balance.” Definitely don’t do that with your pre-teen, and especially in public, because the more invisible you are to their friends the better. I sought a tether – a kindred connection that reminds me, in a glimpse of smile or “my Dad is a dork” look, that she is me, and I her.
I wedged Nicole’s bedroom door across the flotsam of clothes, petri dish of old yoghurt bowl, and wet towel that had at least recently been the recipient of a shower dry-off – and stepped into the abyss.
Music is our common touch point. We both love it in all forms. Thankfully she’s no Bieber fan. She loves 80’s music…for her it’s retro…for me it’s a smelling of the roses of my formative years.
I tell Nicole I have a few new songs and I start to play one on the iPad. It’s Madilyn Bailey’s version of David Guetta’s song Titanium: I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose fire away, fire away ricochet, you take your aim fire away, fire away you shoot me down, but I won’t fall I am titanium….an oddly affirmative message for my little girl that is about to enter Junior High. She had shown me the video the previous day. I scrambled like a couch potato avoiding the potato chip factory to download the song to show her I was hip, happening, and cool to the touch. Yes reader – I really am a Dad Dork.
She’s writing something and has ear plugs wired to her iPod music, but I think détente has found a pathway. An eye looks sideways at me…to see if I’m going to stick it out. I don’t budge. It’s quiet. One must be quiet to keep the animal calm while you raise the camera….SNAP….a global warming. She slowly moves down the bunk bed steps. She’s the rabbit; I’m holding out a plump carrot.
And so we begin to talk….about a school day, a funny story, how soccer is going, what colour to paint her room. For a moment we are, in the words of Forrest Gump, “like peas and carrots.” We’ll never know ‘the why’ of it all, but my hope is that our bond will continue to be the joy of compelling stories to tell about ‘the what’ that constitute the sand in the hourglass we have left together.
Therein lies a key marketing insight: always seek to find a point of connection. Use good content to make that connection. Use that point of connection to open the deeper soul of connection. Whether it’s seven degrees of Kevin Bacon separation, or Cookie Monster’s rendition of Call Me, Maybe, we all have a bond, no matter how remote it might seem. Those bonds bring us closer together. Those bonds lie at the heart of making the world move in magical ways.
As I pulled the door closed and said goodnight, I said something to my daughter I’ve said since she learned to walk: “I love you as big as the sky.” It’s the only universal truth I will always know. She responded: “I know.” Good days or bad, happy or sad as the song goes, all that matters to me is that she “knows.”