I’ve had my heart broken, my world shattered, my dreams extinguished in the blink of an eye. I’ve felt the hollowness of failure; the lung-gripping stranglehold at the realization that everything of which I was sure turned out to be false. It was the worse feeling in my life, and it was a pain I thought never could be surpassed.
I was wrong.
It’s become very apparent to me that as my daughter continues to grow-up and mature into a young adult, as she continues to scream for independence and long for adulthood, my place in her life continues to diminish. With every shrug of the shoulders and with every roll of her eyes, the chasm between us grows greater.
“I don’t need you. You’re so boring. I’m so embarrassed. You’re not funny (or interesting or .. whatever).” She doesn’t say these words, but she doesn’t have to. My daughter’s eyes and body language yell it for her.
There was a time when the hugs were never-ending. The smiles were iridescent. The look in her eyes was one of love and wonderment and joy. I am sure she still feels those emotions, but not as a result of seeing or being with me. Now it’s celebrity crushes and her life on Instagram. It’s hanging out with her friends and shopping for clothes that leave me questioning whether they’re appropriate or I’m just an old man with dated sensibilities.
And she’s only thirteen.
Like a truck rolling downhill without breaks, the void between me and the little woman that used to be my baby girl will continue to gain momentum. Whereas now I’m a footnote to her daily life, over the next six to ten years, I think I’ll be lucky to be a mere afterthought.
She continues to take in new experiences. She continues to view life through the evolving eyes of an adolescent that can see womanhood far off in the horizon. She continues to grow, her once tiny hands now too big for me to maintain being wrapped around her finger.
And as for me, I thought I knew what heartbreak felt like. As usual, I was wrong.
I know the correct thing to do is to give her the freedom and independence she so desperately craves, still maintaining boundaries and being there to course-correct as needed. But I must allow her to navigate these new waters on her own, a direction having been provided by the previous thirteen years of parenting, but now with her hands at the helm and not mine.
Somewhere in my heart I know that in time my daughter will once again incorporate me into her day-to-day. That’s the way it happens, right? We rebel. We know better. We live life, only to realize our parents were right all along. That’s how it happened for me at least, and I know I still struggle with having the type of relationship with my mom I can only assume she wanted to have with me from the beginning.
So here I sit, a tear in my eye and a heaviness in my heart, as I force myself to learn to let go of that little girl that was, and stand in the background for the young woman that is. I sit here with my heart broken …. broken by the one person who captured it from the very second she was born.
And such is Fatherhood.