Jewish World Review Dec. 8, 2003 / 13 Kislev, 5764
The day I realized my daughter had grown up
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | I have some bad news to report. My daughter is happy at college. Make that very happy. I should be very happy for her, but I am not. In fact, I'm downright depressed.
When my wife and I loaded up the car with all her worldly possessions back in September to start her freshman year, she was nervous and we were sad. We told her we'd write and call. She told us she would write and call.
We did. And she did. A lot in the beginning. A lot less now.
There was a time when I e-mailed her every day, and my wife would say I was making things worse. She was right. But I didn't care. I was the doting dad who didn't know when to put the phone down or put the keyboard away.
"Let her communicate with us," my wife would say. "Quit suffocating her." So I quit suffocating. I resigned myself to now-and-then letters sometimes filled with funny newspaper clippings, sometimes a little spending money, always with a lot of love, and always, always with a heavy heart.
But even this dunce of a dad could see she was adjusting just fine.
Freshman jitters soon subsided. She made friends, and, horror of horrors, she met a boy. She likes this boy. And in one of the toughest acts I've ever had as a dad, I had to meet this boy. It was Parent's Weekend in October. He was a nice enough kid, but I instantly hated him.
My wife reminded me her dad felt the same way about me . . . as if that were any more comforting.
He doted on my daughter. My daughter doted on him. She assured me this was not a heavy relationship. "He's just a friend, Dad," she would say. But friends don't constantly hold hands and appear virtually epoxy-glued in public. I was friends with her mother like that. I knew what that was then. I know what this is now.
And now, I'm indignant. She's doing just fine. And I'm not. She's thinking about life at college and loving it. I'm thinking of the time I walked her hand-in-hand to nursery school and I'm hating it.
My wife tells me I'm selfish. She's absolutely right.
I have a problem with this stupid concept of time. It goes much too fast. Things change much too soon. Why is that?
Now with Christmas break approaching, I'm excited about picking up my daughter from college. I'm thinking five weeks with my little girl, even though I know she's not quite my little girl anymore, and the five weeks won't all be mine.
She tells me of her busy social plans, with friends, with the boyfriend.
She is growing up and happy about it.
I am growing older and not happy about it.
I guess I sound bitter for a usually upbeat guy. My wife says I should be happy with how our little girl is working out. She's more confident, less scared, more eager to tap all of life's possibilities. I remember when we were the center of her life. Perhaps it's the healthiest thing of all that now we are not.
My head says that's wonderful.
My heart says that stinks.
And just when it can't get any worse, I hear this:
"I think it would be fun to do a semester in Europe, Dad."
"Oh, really," I say.
. . . As I think , "as long as it's not with the boyfriend."
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