Violet comes back to me looking older that she did a few days ago.
I never get used to that. And I never will either. I know that now. Divorce robs me of time with her, of days when I could be soaking her and her younger brothers in, watching them mess around in the yard, hearing them bicker or play in the front room.
We take it for granted, I guess, this "being around" thing. We stand by the bedside as our own child is born into this strange world and we are enraptured by the notion that we will be there all along. The days and years will roll along and we will see every goddamn thing. We will be involved. We'll walk her to the first day at the bus stop; we'll hold her hand any night that she needs us to. Or any night that we might need to hold it for ourselves.
Divorce shatters all that, though.
Now she goes away from me looking young and comes back to me looking older.
I'm not digging that at all. But I'm learning to survive inside of it all because I have to. Because she needs me to. Because being a single dad and raising a daughter is hard-ass work, man.
And it never gets easier.
I'm always here. I'm always waiting for her to come swinging through the back porch door.
For me, the problem with trying to be a progressive daddy talking to Violet is basically everything. I don't have any specific complaints about how I'm struggling at times to explain the world to her, but that's only because so much of it is completely new to me. I'm out of my comfort zone a lot, so complaining would seem pointless and stupid.
Of course, I'm always grasping at the straws of wisdom. Of course, I'm faking my way through half of this or more, simply trying my best to listen to her when she speaks. Or to get her to listen to me when I do.
Oh god, I talk a lot. I guess it helps me to think I'm getting through to her, you know? She's only 7 now and that seems kind of young to have to explain too much about life and living to her, and I know that. But I don't care. One thing you learn quick as a parent, especially in these single dad/daughters situations, is that 3 today is 6 tomorrow. So 7 is already smashing into 12's bumper, you know?
It's already happening. I can feel it happening. When I watch her watch TV, when I hear her talking to other kids at the park, I can feel her racing forward in the sparkle of her eyes and the tone of her voice.
That's the secret to dads and their daughters, I figure.
You've got to do what you can whenever you can. Even when she's gone at her mom's or whatever, you've got to be wondering about what you can maybe do or say or learn or teach her right now, so that when she comes back and she's standing in your kitchen/rumbling through your fridge, you've got a little game plan to help you along.
I try my best. I listen close, or as close as I can. V likes to talk and so there are times when i have to tune some it out. You do that too, with your kids or with somebody at work or something. You do. Don't lie. But then when I do take the mic and I'm preaching her way, I'm always trying to duct tape little life lessons to so much of what I'm saying.
I try and squeeze in stuff about kindness when we're taking about music. Or I crowbar being independent stuff into how she ought to eat a couple of vegetables before her hair falls out of her scalp.
I love her more than all my internal organs flopped up on the bar down the street. I spend my days hoping she grows into the amazing healthy and happy young woman I dream of, even if she had to do it with only a boneheaded dad guiding her half the time.
She asked me about the KKK the other day.
We were all in the car and she heard the phrase in a Ramones song and so we set out down this winding conversational road together with her 5-year-old brother. And man, was it beautiful. I watched them in the rearview clocking what I was putting out: that people can hate so much.
You know what Violet said to me as the wind came rushing through the windows?
"Dad, if I ever saw a KKK guy, I would run up to them and kick them in their balls!"
I didn't almost run off the road or anything. I didn't say much at all.
I slid in a thing about "violence is never the answer" and yada yada yadda, but inside I was prouder than hell, dude. Why not, I figured. I've made a simple connection between my little girl and righteousness. I will struggle a lot in the years to come. We will probably argue about teenager stuff and I will feel like a big asshole at times for not knowing exactly how to make her understand that I only want for her to understand my fifty-trillion miles of love for her.
Today the KKK, tomorrow: sex or death or God or boobies. Even when I don't know what I'm saying or doing, little girl, I'm still trying my best. You can back on that. It's all I've got, you know? And I'll give it all to you.
As the road gets rougher and the tears come quicker, I'm gonna be there to raise you up.
Somehow, some way, I'm gonna raise and raise and raise you up.