There is a certain time in our lives when a man’s daughter changes from a little girl to being a young woman. There is no specific age at which that happens that I am aware of, no specific accomplishment nor occurrence, but it always happens – sometimes slowly over time, sometimes in a flash.
For the longest time, when you thought of her, the image in your mind is your daughter at birth, or a year old, or seven, but never much older. Then, almost overnight, that long-time, vision of her is not exactly replaced, but is overlaid with her as a grownup.
We used to toss her the keys and tell her to unlock the gate while we stayed in the truck. Then, one day, we just naturally did the opening and closing while she sat. Everyone piled into the car for a trip and we opened the car door for our wife. Then, one day, we opened the door for our daughter as well. It felt a little strange, but it also made us feel a little proud.
Coming to the attention of boys is a serious (and dreaded) step in that maturational direction. The boys she dated changed from tongue-tied and terrified in our presence, to conversing with us as guys, not kids. And that is quite a surprise in itself.
She dresses up for the Prom and takes your breath away when she walks smiling and a little reluctantly into the living room.
She takes an after-classes job without consulting you, moves from the dorms to an apartment, and spends a whole lot more time with that one guy who you, most secretly, really like.
She starts discussing her life plans, which just the other day alternated between a Fair Princess and a Cowgirl and now suddenly revolve around which profession might be the best fit for her talents.
You no longer “tell” her, now you “ask” her. And one day, she answers a question with such a well thought out and appropriate response that you’re actually startled, and peer at her more closely than usual. How could she have grown so much, matured so quickly, developed her gifts so efficiently without you noticing her evolution? Your wife smiles and shakes her head, but you were watching, you just didn’t see.
We’d pick her up, and swirl her around as she screamed and giggled just a week or so ago it seems. Doing that today is ridiculous, because now, more and more at various gatherings, we step back and see that little girl all grown up. And we beam with pride.
She may, from time to time, in very serious situations, call you “Father”, usually signaling a momentous decision that has already been set in cured concrete and about which you have, let’s say, limited input. But still, in spite of all that growth, maturity, change, when something goes badly for her, you find her in your arms in tears.
And then she calls you, “Daddy.”