Violet is 8 now and I'm 45. But it hasn't made much difference. The vast gap in our numbers hasn't scared me or knocked me off course as much as I though it might back when she was an infant and our future together was just so freakin' hazy. I jumped in with both feet, I guess. My dad left me when I was a little boy and so I was going to be the opposite of him. I was going to be a super hero parent. They'd probably give me a government-issue cape by the time they caught wind of how badass this Serge dude was with his daughter.
Photograph by Serge Bielanko Private
I was going to love Violet in all the right ways, so that she knew I was always going to be there for her, that I'd always have her back.
And for the most part, I have felt that cape flapping behind me a lot of the time. That isn't a pat on the back or anything either, it's just...well, okay, maybe it is a wee pat on the back, but so what? Let me give myself that. Violet is a superb little girl and always has been, so it hasn't been all that hard being her Daddy, but still. I've done alright so far and I need to remind myself of that sometimes. Because listen: parenting sucks so much blood and soul out of you, man. No one thanks you for this shit. No one even knows or cares what the hell you're up to just as long as you're not screwing your kid's life up in any overt way/shape/form. People have their own kids; they're just as unsure and all in as you or me or anyone.
So I congratulate myself here and there. Violet is in second grade. She's bright, curious, passionate about the things she digs...even if those things don't always make total sense to me. People playing computer games and filming themselves doing it is something my kid wants to watch? Ummm...Okay. Whaaaatever.
My daughter is, as it turns out, more than I could have ever wished for. She makes me happier than hell on a daily basis. And lots of other people too.
However there are times even now when I feel insecure about stuff. More and more, as we both grow up and older, I sense that there are times when no matter how involved and adept a father I may be for my daughter, she really just wants her mom.
Or needs her mom as it may be.
Her mom and I are three years divorced now. It isn't easy, divorce. Duh. But we've done our best when it comes to our three kids. And I think with Violet it has become increasingly apparent to me that there's really something special between her mom and her that might make me jealous if I wasn't the upper echelon super self-aware Titan of Zen that I am these days. When I've had Violet for a few days at my house sometimes I can almost poke the fat feeling of her being bored or unfulfilled in strange and mysterious ways. It's nearly as if I can hear her personal song of girlhood being played out of her ears or something. It's like her whole head is a stereo playing coming-of-age insider hipster stuff, blaring these tunes, calling out for other girls and other women to join in, sing it, live it. Or to just connect with it with a grin, you know/ Or with a knowing hug or whatever.
Parts of me shrink a bit right then. I want her to know that I'd fight fifty northwest Montana sour wolves off her any old time. That I'd stand up for her and fight for her rights in this world just the same as any good dad would. And then a little more too. Like: if some big corporate asshat was mistreating my daughter during the first year or so of her new gig in some huge Manhattan outfit, I'd not only go there and sit down with the guy (though they won't let me in), but I'd also leave a little Beech Nut spit splattered across his desk and tie as a friendly country reminder that his rampant sexist ass don't me squat to old Black Bart. (I call myself Black Bart in the name of wild western things/ and yes...I know that I don't chew Beech Nut. It doesn't matter.)
I guess the thing is is that I'm a damn fool sometimes. A lot of times. I can pretend that I know exactly how to be everything for my daughter, but truth is: I don't. No one does. And I'm not her mom. Her mom who seems to have some kind of magical ability to get Violet truly excited about things like Civil Rights or Equality. Or watching videos of cows being treated so cruelly. Or vegan crap for dinner. Plus a lot of other things that might link up easier between a daughter's mind and her Mommy's better than with mine. I try. God knows I try to be the fella, the one that can connect all of the dots for my little girl. But I now know that I can't be.
Her mom has powers I simply don't have. All moms do, I'm sure of that. You know that much/admit it. And so despite the inner-conflict jealous guy blah blah blah thing that it sets off in my guts and my conscience, I know that I'm a better dad for stepping offstage at times when that's exactly what Violet needs me to do. I get my time in the spotlight for her. I win some, I lose some. But there comes a time when a girl and her mom are going to need some space, man. Space to share. Space to talk the talk. Space to listen and smile and curl up together, even if just for a half hour or so, when there is no one else. No dad hanging around trying to imitate this very true thing.
I fought this notion for a while. After all, I told myself, you're a divorced single dad with three young kids. Maybe you're just trying to unload some of the load off on to someone else. Like her mom. But I don't believe that anymore.
Violet looks at me with certain twinkles when she walks into my house after a few days away. Right then I know my role is solid. My love is needed. My space is held.
But she looks at her mom in a certain way too. And the twinkle flares up just a bit more at times, I notice. There's real fire there to be dealt with between the two of them . Life stuff. Beautiful stuff. Things that make a real difference in a little girl's life.