Thursday, September 14, 2006

Happy Birthday, S

I'm gonna watch you shine, gonna watch you grow
Gonna paint the sign, so you'll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father who loves his daughter
more than I love you.
--Paul Simon


Just over four years ago I was standing in a tiny room with your mother who was lying on her back, belly all slathered in goop, waiting to find out what you were. We were still coping with the fact that you were even in there, not quite a year after JP was born. Though we were experienced parents by then, we were still trying to catch our breath. The ultrasound technician put the wand down on her belly and moved it around this way and that, taking measurements and letting us know that everything looked good. “Do you want to know what it is?” she asked. More than anything, yes. “You have a girl,” she said. And your mother squeezed my hand, and I think both these experienced parents wanted to cry.

My little girl. You are four-years-old today, but I know if I told you that you were four, you would disagree with me. You would disagree because that is who you are. You learned no at an early age and it didn’t take long before you’d mastered it. You are stubborn, strong-headed and determined, and I love you for it. I’ve spent my life around strong women and I respect and love them dearly, and I want you to keep on that path. Of all my kids, S, you have the ability to make me the maddest, but you can also melt my heart quicker than any of them.

You started pre-kindergarten this year. You’re going to the “big school” with your brothers, uniform just like the others, backpack that covers your entire backside, from shoulders down almost to the backs of your knees. You want so badly to fit in, to look big and act brave. I’m not sure I’m ready. I like to watch you interact with the other kids, and I know that you can take care of yourself, but taking care of you is my job and it’s one of my favorite things to do, so I’m just going to keep on doing it for quite a while. Is that okay with you? No? I didn’t think so, but I’m going to anyway.

I knew even before I had kids that I wouldn’t know what to do with a daughter. The very idea drove me to a cold sweat. But after the boys I thought a lot about a girl, about someone I could call Daddy’s Little Girl, and the idea appealed to me, so much so that I started to count on it. And then there you were, just like that. Coming so soon after C and JP, you were completely unexpected, you caught us off guard as is your nature. Thank you for not making me wait. Happy birthday, S.