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Searching For the Flower Fairy Princess

April 11, 2015

Life is awfully funny, one minute you’re this young guy with this intense need to prove you’re a man, the next you’re a man trying to prove you aren’t too old. This conundrum of life’s ironies played out for me when I witnessed my little girl grow up right before my eyes. One minute she was this little girl who loved Dora the Explorer, pink bows, and colorful hair ties, the next minute she’s being looked at by young and older men as if she’s a young woman coming into her sexual awareness. As her father who was also once a young hormone driven young man you find yourself frightened by the fact that she indeed is!

I was once this hardened young man with this notion that no one could hurt me or cause me pain, this was merely a symptom of having been raised without a father and the circumstances of my childhood. I tried to condition myself to be strong so that no one would could hurt me as I had been in my childhood, but when I became the father of this little girl something began to change and I found myself slowly taking off a few of my facades one at a time.  When my son was born several years before her I did as any first-time father of a boy would do, I was filled with pride and joy and it enforced that need for determination to be a better stronger man. As I became the father of a little girl something clearly changed.

My son had this reverence of me as being that strong father that wrestled with him until he got tired and sleepy, but my daughter developed an entirely different relationship with me all together. My son seem to view me as this disciplinarian figure while my daughter in her own words viewed me as this big fluffy teddy bear, or a white fluffy bunny, as she affectionately called me when she was five years old. My male pride wouldn’t allow this injustice to stand so I rebuffed her assessment, and declared that I was a gangsta bunny with tattoos and scar’s, but she declared once and for all that I was a big teddy bear with pink bows and butter flies flying around my head! This was her view of me. Who was I to deny her a clear and safe characterization of me?

My daughter has never viewed me as a scary or freighting figure, and what father would want that anyway? I just find myself looking back on the simple times of my little girl asking me to put her on my shoulders when she thought that the tide at the beach would over-take her. I remember the first time my daughter got her feelings hurt on the playground when some kids called her a few names that she didn’t understand, and I had to assure her that she was ok. I cried that day, after trying to assure her that those kids were wrong, because that was the first time I had to make my kids understand about the ugly parts of human nature. I was trying to protect her from the ugliness of the world, and I tried to be that person who could always provide that protection, that safe haven for her.

Now my little girl, who once only wore pig-tails and pink bows, is now a black belt in karate and is much too big to fit on my shoulders or need my protection. Why is it that when my son turned 18, and achieved many of his milestones in life, I felt this natural sense of pride and joy? Yet, as my daughter grows more into the woman she is becoming each day, I feel happy, but a bit of sadness all at the same time? Is this a double standard on my part, or is it acceptable that while I want all of my children to grow and mature I tend to want to slow down this process with my daughter, who I still affectionately refer to as my baby girl? I guess my trouble began when my family attended the graduation of my nephew a few years ago, and my wife noticed a young man who seemed to be a little too interested in my daughter. “He was staring a little too much!” my wife said in an irritated tone. I hadn’t even noticed her development into womanhood, or perhaps I purposely tried to ignore it.

I came home from work one day, and my wife tried to explain that my daughter got a visit from her friend, and I’m thinking “What friend are you talking about? Who’s visiting my daughter?” My wife laughed and explained about our daughter getting her period, and I instantly thought back to that day back when she was 5 and I had to put her on my shoulders to protect her from the waves coming in, but this was something I couldn’t prevent, it was life and she was getting older. I remember when she outgrew her toddler bed, how much she really wanted that twin sized princess castle bed, and how I had to search until I found the one she wanted. Some fathers complain about their little girl wearing a tiara, or wanting to play make-believe for too long, but what do we do once they’re ready to grow up, and we’re not quite there yet?

I would like to say it was the guy staring at her which first alerted me that things were changing. Honestly, I guess I really noticed the first time she changed, when her traditional desire to dress as a princess on Halloween was gone, and she began to tweak her costume. She went from just a regular princess to a warrior princess, taking one of her brother’s pirate swords and using a belt to secure it to her dress. The next year she wanted to be a ninja princess, and so on, until she finally asked to dress as the Friday the 13th killer Jason and then a witch just a few years later! She didn’t go into a dark Goth period or rebellious stage, exactly which was part of the reason I didn’t quite catch her transformation. It was as if she was my butterfly-loving flower fairy princess one minute, and then I had to prepare myself for the possibility of some young boy ringing my doorbell asking if my daughter was at home!

I go from this secure well-grounded dad, to this guy who gets weepy at songs like “Butterfly Kisses,” but don’t get to concerned for me because there’s always a country song like “Cleaning this gun” that helps put my “daughter angst” back into proper perspective!

On a more serious note… Was my angst over my daughter growing older really about her, or was it about the overall issue of growing older and losing time? I remember my wife crying so hard after our oldest son got his first “big boy” haircut. He sat in a kiddie chair that was actually a toy car designed to make a toddler want to sit still long enough get a haircut. After the nice lady cut my 3 year olds boy’s hair my wife looked at him, and began to cry declaring that “he didn’t look like a baby anymore!”

As my wife began to hug my son, who was still only interested in steering the toy car he was sitting in, she kept crying; so much so, that the women who cut my sons hair (a mother herself) just began to hug my wife, and they both cried in each other’s arms as I looked on wishing that I had been recording the entire event! We would have won America’s funniest home video’s easily with that recording! I see the irony in justifying laughing at my wife for getting too weepy at my son’s first haircut only for me to shed tears that day after my five year old daughter asked me what a “slow-poke” was because the other kids were laughing at her when she couldn’t keep up with them when I took her to the park with her older brother. Are these milestones more significant depending upon the parent, or the child? Both mothers and fathers share love for their children regardless of gender, but do we tend to view them differently depending upon their gender?

Do fathers openly desire for their sons to be more independent while secretly wanting their daughters to remain dependent?  Is this the exact opposite for mothers? Exactly when is it a good time to let go, and encourage that independence? I don’t believe I want my daughter to be afraid in life, and thus keep me in the role of her protector, but I will say that a part of me will always miss the pure innocence of complete trust that kids have that their parents can and will do whatever it takes to protect and provide for them. I believe it is truly that feeling, and the memory of those times, that all parents miss, and it’s those memories that perhaps make us so weepy and sentimental when we hear certain songs, or look at those old photos.

When those relationships are continually nurtured and maintained it takes away the slight emotional pull of when we age and our children grow older. We will no doubt miss many of those times, but when we have fond memories, and we grow into our new continued relationships with our growing children, we adjust to the changes. My son who was named after me is often mistaken for me over the phone because of his deep voice, and I laugh every time, but it doesn’t make me sad. Yet when I think in terms of my daughter being a young woman and not my little girl I turn into that soft fluffy teddy bear she always thought me to be! How can I can I rectify this situation? Am I wrong to be somewhat saddened by my little girl no longer being so little and no longer a girl, but a young woman?

My daughter assures me that she isn’t interested in boys right now, but while this initially made me feel good, the thought that she was simply telling me what I clearly wanted to hear crossed my mind. The moment she told me that, I was like a contestant on The Family Feud clapping vigorously while chanting “good answer, good answer!” but I know that even if that is true today, tomorrow is another story. The issues of “boys” and “sex” or “drugs” and other outside influences are coming even more so over the next few years and my only consolation is knowing that we’ve taught her, taught them, well enough for them to make the best choices, but if we’re honest… Isn’t there a part of every parent that wishes they never stopped believing that our children relied on them still, just a little?

I grew up with no delusions about childhood due to the harsh circumstances that I had endured, but when I had kids of my own I set out to give my children different expectations than I myself had known. A part of me wishes I could have a few of those moments at the beach in Galveston back with that little girl on my shoulders asking me to run back to shore as the waves were rolling in on us, but that moment is now a part of our past, a very good and found memory none the less, but it’s now history. My mission is to make sure that our present is filled with more than enough warmth and fond memories that I don’t have time to reflect so much on the past because we are not only maintaining our relationship, but adapting as the years continue to go by.

If we evolve as parents, just as our relationships with our children continue to grow and change as they grow older, we will not have to live with regret or agonize over the changes that come. I hope to welcome the growth that no doubt awaits my wife and I as we watch all our children grow up and mature. I hope that I can adjust and see her as a young woman and I hope my hesitancy of her growing doesn’t affect my ability to let her grow and make decisions that I will have to trust her to make in the upcoming years. While my fondness for the years past will never fade, I am content with making new memories and living in the present, not the past. I am fully aware of my tendency to reflect; but I don’t want to be stuck in the past searching for my flower fairy princess.

She’s no longer a flower fairy princess… she’s now a black belt teen warrior princess.

  1. so very hard to see time fly. nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

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