“This Is What It’s Like When Your Daughter Becomes a Teenager” originally appeared on Medium and The Fatherly Forum and was reprinted with permission.
It’s scary. There’s no other way to say it. From the first day I held her when she was born, to her thirteenth birthday earlier this year, the entire journey has been scary.
I still remember the days when “daddy” was all she cared about. When she asked me to take her to the park in the summer, or watch her make snow angels in the winter. Later on she would ask me to record her doing flips outside on a stretch of grass.
Pillow fights, movie nights on the couch, walks to Starbucks, I swear this was the norm.
But now, as much as I hate to admit it, my daughter has a life. And a life away from me.
It started in the summer with her wanting her friends to come over on the weekend. No big deal. I ordered pizza and we all ended up watching movies.
Then she wanted to go to Wonderland (theme park north of Toronto). Again, not a big deal, till she said she just wanted it to be her and her friends.
I agreed, even though I was silently disappointed at my first time not being invited to be part of the mix. I gave her a pickup time and lingered for a moment in the parking lot while her friends and her strolled into the park — on their own.
Next came weekend sleepovers. Yeah, that meant no more pizza and movies and a full two days away from her dad. There’s no sigh emoticon for how this felt.
But what can I say? She’s not getting into trouble, still getting straight A’s in school, is active in after school activities on top of being one of the top students in her art class.
As tempting as it is to force her to do things with me all the time, it’s actually much more fulfilling letting her go and watching her grow up. Seeing which friends she’s grown close to and how she behaves, how she spends her spare time and her love of all food not fattening.
It’s all part of my daughter becoming herself.
Talking to her over text when she’s at her mom’s house, joking about posts we both saw on Instagram. She’s growing up, and I’m dealing with it.
And to be honest, I’m still part of her life. A big part of it. It’s only my holding on to how things were in the past that’s preventing me from seeing that. Our relationship has definitely changed, but if anything it’s become stronger.
She trusts me. She tells me things that are uncomfortable for me to hear, but I love that. She still laughs at my jokes and listens to everything I say (or at least still pretends to).
I’ve been blessed, and though I worry about her entering high school next September and how that will further cut into our daddy-daughter time, I’m confident my daughter will still trust in our relationship enough to know I’ll always be right here.
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