“Dad! I’m almost taller than you!” my daughter says. A smirk plays across her lips as she stands two inches from my face. It’s important to read between the lines when you are dealing with your teenagers. The message she is trying to convey is not that she is growing. That’s not the subtext. It’s deeper, and honestly, her attempt at intimidation is quite amateurish.
What she really means is “Dad! I almost don’t need you anymore!” Young punk.
“You’re not almost taller than me,” I tell her. The smirk remains.
“Yes, I am! And soon I will find someone that I love more than you. Sucks for you old man,” she says. Not in those exact words but, again, I get the message behind her simple “Yup” response. Ok. I can play this game. But let’s drop all the pretense of politeness here in this story so everyone can truly understand what transpired.
“No one will ever love you as much as me,” I imply to her. “I am the Alpha and Omega. You are my sun and moon. To say that I would sacrifice for you is an understatement.”
“You’re outdated. And as I grow inch by inch, you become obsolete. You will be a fond memory.” It’s absolutely nuts how much she can communicate in a single look of her face.
“I will never be outdated. I am dad. I am eternal.”
“As eternal as a breeze,” she says behind words that sound like “I am almost taller!” But again, it’s the words behind the words that we are paying attention to here. “And when that breeze blows, no matter how hard, it is eventually gone.”
“No!” I scream in my head. “I don’t care how tall you get. I can’t think of you as anything other than that four-year-old that needs me. I have been your security blanket, and although I’m starting to get frayed, I will forever be here.”
“With each inch I grow,” her eyes say, ” I will need you less and less. You have served your purpose, old man. You have two inches left, and then I will be an adult. And when that happens, perhaps I’ll call you on the weekends or visit at Christmas.”
“I’m sure I can find a witch somewhere to capture you in this size so that you never grow old. That is, after all, what happened to Peter Pan.”
“Peter Pan was a prick.”
She makes me turn around so we are back to back. She lines up our shoulders, and they are shockingly close. My estimate of two inches before she is taller than me might have been too generous.
What is it that they say about facts? They don’t care about your feelings? They should. I’m going through some serious crap here. Her hand moves to the top of her head and slides until it reaches just under my bald spot.
“Soon, father! Soon! I will drink more milk and use specialized stretches to grow faster. Then I will get a license to drive a motor vehicle. One that will take me far from you on Friday nights.”
“Then I will wait for you with my stomach in knots,” I almost say but instead just shrug my shoulders to the response of her telling me she will be driving in a couple of years. “And I will talk to your mother a lot about it. She will tell me to ease up, and I will try. But deep inside, I will still be a ball of tension.”
“As is tradition,” she never says as she turns back around. Her smile is wide and excited. She stands up on her tiptoes. “You can’t keep me from growing up any more than you stop you from shrinking.”
“Ouch. That’s a low blow. I’m not shrinking.”
“Yes. You are.”
“But I feel as tall as I ever was!”
“So does everybody until they realize that their daughter has grown up and won’t want pancakes in the morning anymore.”
“I don’t want to talk about this.”
“Good, because we never had this conversation. This is just what goes through your head when I tell how close I am to being taller than you.”
“Will you be careful when I’m not there to watch out for you?”
“Will you still laugh at my dumb jokes when I send you some futuristic communication from a device that hasn’t been invented yet?”
“Quietly, but I won’t tell anyone.”
“You’re growing up. But when you do, what happens to me?”
She puts her hands on the side of my face and plants an over the top kiss on the top of my head, which she can do easily as she stands on her tip-toes. And that kiss tells me everything I need to know.
“You will be you and you’ll be my dad.”
“I don’t want to be anything else,” my hug says which she promptly squirms out of.
As she walks away, prancing on those toes, my eyes see her parting shot that is clearly communicated in the bounce of her step.
“I’ll need someone to feed my cat when I travel the world, though.”