In our Daddy Issues series, a father of a young daughter seeks guidance, hoping to raise a strong woman. He looks to you, dear readers, for insight.
I want to just hold her. I want to keep her in my arms and not let this happen again, but of course I know it will. It's impossible to stop this. I'm listening to her sniffle and feeling the warm steam of sobs against my neck, and I'm recalling the gaggle of friends, preparing for an after-school adventure — ice cream, maybe, or a movie.
"Can I come?" I ask.
She releases her squeeze and wipes her eyes.
"But why?" she wants to know.
It breaks my heart, these simple tragedies. Her own gaggle of friends now, telling her all about a fabulous birthday party.
"You weren't there," they tell her, "Because you weren't invited."
She holds it in all day, even on the car ride home.
"How was school?"
Then as soon as we unlock the door, she's in my arms, sniffling, telling me all about it.
"Why?" she wants to know.
And I'm at a loss. Because this is what kids do? This is what kids have always done? I've had it done to me and even done it? You may learn from this and not do it to friends or you may forget and be cruel someday. It happens. You'll get over it. I know it sucks. Oh kid, what's say we go for ice cream, two scoops? Fuck these little mother fuckers anyway?
What can you say or do you just hold on and listen?
We're squarely in that realm of pain that Band-Aids can't heal. For so long, her so many bruises could be healed with a kiss and a strip of cartoon-coated sticky plastic. But these are new injuries, even more tender, even more bruising. I sit there on the carpet, with her tiny body in my arms, her hands wrapped around my neck and she wants me to tell her just what it is about her they don't ... like? She doesn't know. She wants to know what happened and why, and I listen to her cry and tell her I love her and will always love her. I want to say these things will happen for no other reason than they do and that she'll be fine and they're really no big deal so many years later, but how does this help anything? I tell her I love her again, that she is so awesome and amazing she makes me break with happiness, and I listen to her tell me everything she wants to tell me about it and I understand what a privilege and a scary proposition it is to be the first one she'll see at home every day, the one who picks her up and brings her back to safety.
I have a sudden image of us on the same carpet in the years to come, of her limbs impossibly long and stretching around me even more, of her words clearer and sharpened by age: heartbreak, left out, rejection. These things will come, I know, and I want to just squeeze her, to keep her small and safe in my arms, but it seems the easy way out of things. I want her to grow and be happy and I want to help her navigate these simple tragedies that feel so sorrowful but it makes me ache to feel the warm steam of her sobs on my neck and to see the tears wiped away by the back of her hand. I want to say the right things to her but something tells me there are few words to heal these wounds and that listening is something I should get used to, and so we sit on the carpet for awhile longer, and I feel these tiny hands on the back of my neck, squeezing.
Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out! He has many first world problems.
Image by Lauri Apple.