Growing up, I can’t remember ever (not even once) dreaming about becoming a father. In the beginning of 1998 I met a girl, though. Little did I know this girl would be responsible for changing my life forever. By December of 1999, life was good. I had just started a new job. My fiancee and I had a little one-bedroom apartment that we shared with our cocker spaniel (Juliet), and two kittens (Pearl and Gizmo).
Thing is, December of 1999 was a little too good, if you know what I mean. That twinkle in my eye, turned into a baby girl on September 26th, 2000. I was so scared. I had turned 21 the month before, so it’s not like I was a teenager with zero clue about what this was going to mean. I was a full-fledged “adult” that still hadn’t quite comprehended the severity of life change that was about to occur.
I wasn’t the best dad when she was little. I was a worse husband. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my little girl more than I had ever loved anything or anyone in my life. I hated being married, though, and that took a toll on all of us. For three and a half years, it was just us. No siblings to take care of, just a wife and one daughter. I tried, I really did. I worked overnight stocking groceries while working days at the post office anticipating her arrival. Her mom was going to school full-time, we moved to a bigger place, and had her room decorated with Winnie the Pooh.
I’ll never forget her first room. We were renting, so we couldn’t paint, but we bought the sticky wallpaper strips anyway. I hung a net on the ceiling that held your stuffed animals, and grandma got us a gliding chair that we used to rock you to sleep when you woke up in the middle of the night. I had a screen on the back window blocking the sun from hitting my baby’s eyes, and my arms still hurt from holding her and pacing back and forth across the living room floor, singing and dancing.
In 2002, Kelly Clarkson won the first American Idol, and my daughter and I sang “A moment like this” a bajillion times. She
was is one of my very best friends. Like I mentioned earlier, though, I wasn’t the best husband, and what coulda, shoulda, woulda been—simply wasn’t. Her mom and I split up and took a break. She got her own apartment in a different town. Every single day I visited my kid. Losing my wife was difficult, don’t get me wrong, but the one thing I refused to give up on was my relationship with my kid.
When she turned five years-old, I asked if she wanted a powerwheels car that she could drive through the neighborhood or if she wanted to go on a mini vacation, just her and I. Of course she wanted the vacation. We went to Branson, Missouri and saw Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, we rode the Ducks, went to Silver Dollar City, the Butterfly Palace, and we even saw the Shanghai Circus. She was so happy, and at the time, that vacation was one of the happiest few days of my life.
Between her fifth birthday and today (her 18th birthday), I have struggled internally with maintaining a good relationship with her. At times, we butt heads. Whether she likes it or not, she kind of looks like me sometimes. She’s stubborn, obnoxious at times, and is starting to act like she’s ready to break away and be an adult now. We don’t have near as much one-on-one time, now that she has four more sisters (from me), plus another sister from her mom.
A couple years ago, trying to stay relevant in her life, I actually kept a streak on SnapChat going for over one full year. That’s right, over 365 days of purposely taking a silly photo of myself and sending it to her, and vice versa. I’ve listened to her horrendous viola playing (or was it a violin), and I’ve seen my little baby grow big teeth before her head fit them. She made me so proud when she won the spelling bee at her school and got fifth place in the county spelling bee. She’s danced, cheered, played tennis, and now she’s actually working two jobs, going to school, and is in a nursing program.
She’s not the best driver on the road, that’s for sure. Then again, I’m pretty sure I wrecked my car a couple times before I graduated, so there may be hope for her after all. She’s made me proud more times than I can count, and she’s ticked me off probably more than that, even. That being said, I am proud to be her dad. A few months ago she even told me that if she ever found out I wasn’t her “real” dad, that she would probably keep me anyways.
I’m going to be sad when one day she goes off for real on her own. I’m feeling more confident with each passing month, that she’s going to be fine, though. I know I haven’t written on here in a while, but I have to work today, and she has school today. I just wanted to tell her “thanks.” Thanks for allowing me to be your dad. Thanks for allowing me to love you forever. Thanks for not giving up on me. Thanks for being my guinea pig on how I raise your little sisters. I know I don’t get everything right. But I sure as heck try. I love you. Oh, and Happy Birthday, too.