Happy Birthday to my oldest daughter today. She is very proud to announce to me that she is just two years away from being a teenager. The funny thing is, she says it without knowing why. So Madison is now heading into the second half of her childhood now, or as it is called, being a “tweenager.” This is the period of time that a lot of changes have already taken place in her life, but more importantly, she is becoming more aware of her surroundings, and the things that are out in the world for her to experience.
It is easy to remember what birthdays I looked forward to. Turning sixteen was a major one for most all of us because it was the gateway to adulthood and independence, getting a driver’s license. I have put the kibosh on that theory with Madison, because when we discussed when she would be able to drive, I negotiated a sweet deal, as close to never as I could get, thirty eight years of age.
Another milestone was turning twenty one. While the responsible goal was to have turned the age to be able to make your opinion count by voting, many of us saw twenty one as an opportunity to experience why all the other adults we watched were always so happy, consuming alcohol. Well, I know Madison has not expressed her interest in politics just yet. And I know that Madison does not really understand the concept of drinking alcohol, as she never really witnessed either of her parents drink other than the occasional glass with a meal.
Hmmmm… so what could Madison be all excited about being two years away from being a teenager? I tried to remember what it was like for me and the things that I did back then. The bad thing for Madison is that I am going to remember from the male perspective. I played a lot of baseball and football, rode my bike, did my homework, hey… wait a minute. At around that age, I was crossing the vortex that allowed me to recognize that girls were a good thing.
Television had shows that displayed boyfriend and girlfriend relationships, and that it was cool to have an interest in someone. Hey… you do not think… wait a minute… she is not… could… no. She cannot be excited about turning eleven because of…?
Yes, the reality of fatherhood and a little girl who is excited about a particular birthday. For many years, she has playfully talked about her “boy friends”. One in particular she has laid claim to as her husband for the last six years or so. She is noticing boys. But fortunately one thing in my favor is that Madison has a little sister who is willing to blow the whistle on any ill-fated attempts to disrespect my daughter.
In all seriousness, this is a difficult year for Madison and I. As it is another special day that we are doing differently, because of the pending divorce. One new tradition that I have started with her, and will do the same with my younger daughter, is picking a birthday meal. In the past, because extended family were invited, Madison never got to choose her birthday dinner. And ultimately, it is her birthday. Not everyone was crazy about tuna noodle casserole when I was a kid, but it was my birthday, and my dinner. And so, for our new birthday tradition, Madison chose Taco Bell.
It does not take a lot to make Madison happy as her father. She wants attention. She wants to do the things that she wants to do. I could not be more proud of her (I am equally proud of both of my daughters). Happy Birthday my “Ting Ting”. Don’t rush the teenage years on me.