By Geoff Cottrill
Being a parent is a great thing. It’s not an easy job by any means. There are days, sometimes weeks, when you feel like everything you do is wrong. You worry about whether or not you’re making the right choices, giving enough love, affection, advice, and attention. You wonder what kind of people your kids are going to grow up to be.
One of the wonders of being a parent is watching your children grow, discover, and experience things for the first time. It’s magic. Sometimes however they discover things before you’re ready for it.
Recently my 12 year-old daughter Claire discovered something.
Yes, I had hoped that maybe we would make it until college graduation before I had to start worrying about boys chasing my girls. Well, a lot like turning 40, it comes before you’re really ready for it.
So, I decided to go with it. I bit my lip as I heard Claire talk non-stop about the various boys in her class. She came home from a dance a month ago, proudly announcing that she danced with three boys. It was the first time she had ever danced with a boy. And she had to dance with three of them? In just one night? NO!!!
After a few weeks she walked in to the room and proudly announced, “Daddy, guess what? I have a boyfriend”. After considering quickly putting the house up for sale and moving to somewhere in Alaska, I took a deep breath and asked her, “A boyfriend, huh? What’s his name?”. She smiled and said his name was John. Now, I immediately think to myself, “John, huh? Where does this little monster live? Does he know that I am looking for him?……”. She then goes on to tell me that they have been texting to each other for a few weeks and have just decided to become boyfriend and girlfriend.
I live in a very small town. We have no red light. There is a church, a school, a small country store, and an ice cream stand that’s only open in the summer. We’re a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of any big city. Ok, maybe not a million miles, but at least 20 miles. Living here has been a wonderful experience. Sometimes I feel like because its so small that people are a bit more innocent and unaffected here, especially our children. (It’s not always the case but it is a lovely place, filled with lots of wonderful people).
Ok, back to this new discovery by my daughter.
A month ago Claire came home from school and announced she was trying out for the school’s basketball team. We have a hoop on our driveway, and we shoot baskets with the dog (when it’s not snowing). Claire has become pretty good at shooting the rock.
After trying out and making the JV team (she is in 6th grade), she started taking a greater interest in the game and the Celtics. I thought to myself, “this is great! Claire likes basketball!”.
Once I started digging in to this boy named John, I learned that he plays basketball too. He’s on the boys team and is evidently pretty good (probably a lot better than me). I learned about John’s basketball passion from the 157 page report I received from the private investigator I hired to dig into the background of this 12 year old boy John. (Not really, but I sure did think about it). I will never watch this young man play basketball, I think to myself. How dare he date my daughter!
So, a few weeks go by. I casually check in from time to time with Claire-bear to find out how things are going with young John. She says things are fine. (She has no idea that I have had a private eye trailing him since the news broke….and I know every move he’s made for the past two weeks!).
Back to basketball. Claire’s team plays their first game two weeks ago. The Carlisle Huskies lost the game 38-0. Claire, the most competitive 12 year old I know, was pretty upset after the thrashing they took from the private all girls school with the 6’ tall center (she’s 12? Really?).
This past Thursday they played their second game. At the end of a hard fought game the scoreboard read; Huskies 6, Visitor 48. (Another close game for the mighty Huskies….maybe b’ball isn’t our game…).
Claire came walking into the kitchen after the game with a few tears in her eyes. I figured that she was upset that they were once again on the short end of a big score. I said, “don’t worry Claire-bear, at least you guys scored 6 points (Claire scored exactly zero of them).
Claire looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “no Daddy, its not about the game. I don’t really care that much that we lost………I am upset about John…….we’re breaking up”.
I quickly turned away, tried to contain my pure elation, and almost blurted out, “YES!”.
After biting my lip till it practically started bleeding I gave Claire a hug. I told her not to worry, that things always have a way of working themselves out. We sit down and have a chat about what she’s going through…..
Claire pulls out her phone and shows me the text she has spent an hour writing, ready to hit the send button. It is literally a “Dear John” letter. (I am not kidding, here!!). She wrote him a long note letting him know that it just wasn’t working out. I don’t read it for fear that I will learn that he has kissed her or held her hand!
She hits the send button. Into the G3 network goes this breakup letter. The mailman isn’t necessary. No need to send a note via one of your friends. Instantly delivered. See ya later.
I decided that maybe Claire-bear and I needed a little time together so the two of us jumped in the car and headed over to our favorite pizza place in the next town, a few miles away. We walked in and immediately ran into 3 of Claire’s friends. When they invited us to join them, Claire shot me a quick glance and smile, and then told her friends she needed a few minutes with her Dad. I had to turn away and wipe a tear from my eye. My 12 year-old chose me over her friends. She needed me, and I needed her.
We sat and we talked. She asked me about my first girlfriend. How old was I? What was her name? Did she like you? Did you like her? Why didn’t you guys work out?.
These were the questions Claire had for me. I was careful not to ask about John. I waited for her to start talking. And, she did.
“Daddy, I was thinking about it. I want to be able to go to Fern’s (our country store) after school with my friends. If I have a boyfriend I will have to go with him. I don’t want to be tied down. I am too young to be tied down to one guy. I want to be with my friends after school, not some boy. If I have a boyfriend then I will have to stand with him at the dance and only dance with him. I don’t want to be tied down like I am married or anything”.
She is 12.
I sit there for a minute, trying to make sure that the tape recorder inside my head is remembering every single word. This is a moment I want to last forever. I sit there, with a warm feeling in my heart, telling myself that I haven’t lost her just yet.
I try to give Claire some advice about boys, telling her that we’re not that smart. I remind her that girls mature faster than boys do and that she has nothing but time in front of her. There will never be another first boyfriend, but there will be other boyfriends. We talk about the fact that being married isn’t necessarily being “tied down”. She says, “Well, I guess it depends who you are married to”. I tell her not to worry. Everything will be OK. I can tell by the way she looks at me. She believes me.
We finish our pizza and climb in the car to drive home. As we drive through the beautiful Massachusetts country, past old horse barns, a frozen pond, giant trees with arms that look like they are going to reach down and grab us, I decide to turn on the radio. She looks at me and says that she’s recently been listening to the band Paramore. She says, “I love their singer Hayley. The reason I like her is because she really sings. They don’t mess with her voice (no T-Pain action here!). She is in the room, with her band, when they record their songs”. She likes the fact that they are real, imperfect, raw, & pure. She likes the same things deep within music that I do. The simple song. One that comes from the heart.
I switch from the radio to a CD I have been listening to lately. It’s a Beatles record. She and I share a bond over the four guys from Liverpool. A year ago she texted me while I was on the west coast, telling me her new favorite song was Hey Jude. It melted my heart.
I hit the forward button a few times and the song starts. After the second note from the piano Claire looks over to me and says, “Let It Be. I love this song”. I look back at her with a smile, feeling like the king of the world. As the song starts, I decide to turn it up nice and loud. Without a word to each other we both start singing at the top of our lungs, “whisper words of wisdom, let it be…..let it be”. As I look away, out the window, I stop singing. All I can hear is the sweet, sweet voice of my daughter. After the sounds of the first cry of both Abby and Claire the minute they were born, I have never heard a sweeter sound.
I realize that she is an angel.
As the song ends, Claire looks over at me. She sees the tears in my eyes and says, “I guess this song is telling me something, huh Daddy…….let it be”.
One of the moments in my life I will never, ever forget.
Claire has discovered boys.
Live. Love. Laugh.
Enjoy life. Every simple moment of it.
Thanks for listening….