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The Day I Dreaded the Most As a Dad Finally Came

Photograph by Serge Bielanko Private

My daughter's mom texted me yesterday afternoon. I was sitting on my back porch with my brother on a magic spring day. We were taking a break from playing guitars in the house. Taking a break in the great outdoors. For a moment there all my troubles seemed a few valleys over.

Then my phone pinged.

I looked at the text.

"Violet has officially spoken with me about having a crush on a boy," it read. "She likes his 'blue eyes and freckles'"

The sun fell out of the sky then. It landed on my head. Heavy. Hot. Oh my god. The sky is falling.

I texted back right away.

"Dear Jesus. I'll kill him."

But listen you literal-minded doofuses who comb the internet hoping for triggers to spark up your unquenchable rage, I was joking. In the dad way. Even if I meant it just a little.

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The thing is: HOLY SH!T! How can this be happening?! This has never happened before and I was kind of counting on it to never happen. Ever. Even though I knew it would someday. Even though I knew there would come a day when the stars aligned in such a way that Violet, my 8-year-old second grader, the love of my life and the apple of my banged-up eye, MY BABY GIRL, would feel the first pangs of a crush on someone in her world.

The wild stirrings of life unfolding, I understand how it goes. But already? Now? Can't she wait until she's 17? Or 37?

I caught my breath after a moment and leaned back against the wall of my house. Her mom texted me a few more times, talking about how beautiful and lovely it was to be standing there in her kitchen down the road listening to our firstborn daughter reveal what she was revealing.

You have those moments in the car on the way to work or just standing there in the shower when you suddenly are overcome with that certain flash of realization, right?

I looked at the trees, then over at my brother. I didn't say anything to him. I was letting it all sink in. A pigeon flew up into the church belfry two doors down and I thought about how quick and strange life really is. Because it is. You know that right? You have those moments in the car on the way to work or just standing there in the shower when you suddenly are overcome with that certain flash of realization, right?

Oh man, it hits us. Everything is happening so fast and I'm running out of time and I need to just take a deep breath and understand that love is all that matters and who cares if America is ever great again because I'm dying even as I stand here!

Little epiphanies are all we've got sometimes—especially when you're a parent.

And so a random text message dropping on me like a fallen star on a spring day ought to give me pause, huh? Not because my daughter is admitting to her mom that she's crushing on some freckled dude on her bus. Not because my initial reaction is to swing down on a jungle vine to try and save my daughter from the dark tides of inevitable heartbreak that are creeping across the land straight at her. And not because I'm afraid of not being able to know how to handle stuff like this when it shows up, when my kids begin to show real signs of growing and being very much alive. Instead, I freeze in my tracks because it occurs to me that something wonderful and sublime is going down completely unexpected.

My daughter's heart is catching fire! Like the Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz"! It's amazing, isn't it?

I have known so much pain and struggle in my 45 years, same as you. The hits keep coming too. Some days I wonder how much a single divorced dad of three little ones can take, you know?

Then something like this happens.

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I catch a flash of the future. I see a swift clip of my kids down the line and they're older and they're grown and they're experiencing love and hurt and hope and sadness in all the ways that being human offers up, and it's glorious for me to sense that.

I want that for them.

They deserve it, all of it. Tears and snot and champagne and raindrops tapping on their tongues. I love that and I want to be there for as much of it as I can. I'll miss tons, I guess. I'll be gone someday and they will remain. Hearts beating on. Blood rushing still.

So i just want to dig it all while I can. It makes me mental at first, just thinking about all the stuff we're gonna have to get through together. But that's the whole point of life, huh? Puppy Love Crush came rolling up out of nowhere yesterday afternoon. I never saw it coming. And I'm gonna lay low, not try and make it a big deal for my little girl. Because it's a bigger deal for me and I know it. She'll probably ditch Freckles by the next full moon. But I'll remember him.


So here we go.

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