Nobody ever takes a father aside to share the news that their 11 year-old angel will go to bed one night and wake up the next morning a complete stranger at 14. And while the odometer reads 14, the eyes say 17 and the dress code is Forever 21.
My Daughter Turned Into a Teen, Overnight
It literally happens overnight with no warning whatsoever. I tucked my daughter in one night and the next morning the entire ball game was over. I never saw it coming. Somehow I thought my little Turtle Bug would be there for many more years.
I can’t put my finger on how she had changed so much and so quickly. She didn’t look much different but the evidence was everywhere. Maybe it was her teenage eye roll, or “whatever” gesture? The twenty minute showers and forty minute hair and make-up routine were now the norm.
Boys lurked in the shadows. Daddy was no longer the center of her universe. I wasn’t even in the same galaxy. Maybe it was social media and being constantly connected to a web of friends. Maybe it was her “new” music. Whatever it was, I knew that our relationship had changed forever. Daddy was replaced by Dad.
What could I to do and what was my next move? I dove in head first. In an effort to proactively connect with my daughter, now 14, and find a new connection I reached out to her recently.
Dad: “Sweetie, when is a good time for us to talk, nothing specific, just a few minutes to catch up and shoot the breeze?”
Dad: “I know that mornings aren’t your favorite. After school there’s homework and sports and I’m still at work. Then it’s dinner time, and maybe more homework. And I do go to bed pretty early. So, what do you think honey, when is a good time for us to talk?”
Daughter: “When I talk to you.”
Dad quietly leaves the room to fully digest her response. Again, nobody ever bothers to tell you these things are coming. Zero warning, zilch. Well, now you can at least say you have been warned. And really, warning or not there is nothing a father can do to stop his little angel from growing up. There should be a public service warning. Put it on those big digital billboards along the freeway that highlight the national debt or deaths from smoking.
I Miss My Little Girl
I sure do miss my 11 year-old. There is genuine sadness and a sense of innocence lost. She is no longer Daddy’s little girl. The hugs are now more infrequent. There are fewer walks in the park. Snuggling in bed or even tucking her in is gone forever.
So many little moments sneak by before you notice. Moments I didn’t fully appreciate at the time. Holding hands, piggyback rides, making funny faces, private giggles that I took for granted. There is an unmistakable sense of loss.
Maybe it’s just father time leaning in to say hello. That chapter has closed and it takes time to mourn and regroup. I always assumed there would be a heads up, some sort of two year notice period to make you pay more attention to every special moment. The notice never came.
I will adjust. There will be new moments to look forward to, new ways to connect and share time with her. We will find new adventures to chase. I will embrace her teenage wonder and do my best to be present in these formative high school years.
I do wish there was a way I could go visit my 11 year-old once in a while. Maybe we could meet once a month on Sundays. An hour would suffice, maybe two. We could take a leisurely walk in the park and enjoy nature. On the way home we could grab an ice cream cone. That would be nice.
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Mark Friel is a 52 year-old father who writes to share his experiences raising a son and a daughter in this modern age. He’s just a normal guy from Oregon who’s been married for 24 years and has two teens. His career in commercial real estate provided him with the freedom to spend lots of time with family, so whether coaching youth sports or taking a spontaneous 4 day road trip, Marc has been proud to put family first.