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Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Little Girl is Growing Up and Soon the Nightmare Begins...

Maybe, it was after having to tell a group of ten and eleven-year-old boys to stop yelling, “You eat poop!” at my backdoor neighbor, or maybe, it was after having swept the backyard patio, after a popcorn fight broke out, only to see it covered with popcorn again, but, somewhere during the night of my daughter’s eleventh birthday party, I thought to myself, “Now, why are we doing this again?”

Oh, yes, my wife would later tell me, “It’s a memory that she will cherish for a lifetime.”

I sure hope so because it was mayhem; thirty five plus wannabe-teens fifth graders, screaming, dancing (to their own song), and throwing food, the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides blaring on a huge rental blowup movie screen, and a mess throughout our patio and kitchen, as a revolving door of parents, kids, family and friends went in and out of our home. And, in the middle of all this were our four-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter, who were having a blast.

General George A. Custer
As one mom dropping off her child at our house told me, “You’re very brave!” Thank you. That was nice. I could just picture someone saying that to General George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, before an Indian arrow pierced his heart (although legend says he was shot!).

After trying to maintain decorum and keeping a close eye on my daughter (there were boys in the house!), for about forty minutes, I finally gave up. I opened a beer and told my wife, “This was your idea; you go out and keep an eye on them.” I’m more trusting when I’m tired (and thirsty)!

Then again, as most tween parties, the boys were on one side watching the movie and the girls were on another talking and goofing off.

In any account, the reality of all this, as I pondered after everyone had left, is the realization that my once little girl is growing up fast, which in all honesty, has been coming on as fast as the Millennium Falcon fleeing the Imperial Starfleet over the past year.

Now, instead of Disney Princesses and Barbie dolls, she’s talking of dance parties, wearing her mother’s clothes and, lately, talking on the phone to her BFF, who apparently refuses to talk or hang out with her at school, or NBFF (new BFF) for longer than I talk to my wife (which is not saying much). Girls are definitely more complicated than boys!

I sometimes wonder what ever happened to that baby girl, who wouldn’t fall asleep unless she was lying on her daddy’s chest at night? Or, as she got a little older, the many nights that I had to calm her hysterical crying by bouncing her in my arms, while walking around the house and trying to soothe her with that clicking noise that we parents make with our tongues.

The morning of her party, as I sat at the beauty parlor, waiting for my daughter to get a mani-pedi and blow dry (and waiting for a haircut myself); I was admiring how beautiful a young lady our firstborn child is growing up to be (of course, she has my looks, despite my wife’s family's insistence that she looks like my sister-in-law!).

Her body is totally changing; sprouting and curving in all the womanly places. And, unfortunately, with her physical maturity, like all girls’ fathers, will soon begin my next round of sleepless nights.

At the beginning of one of my wife’s favorite movies, Father of the Bride, Steve Martin’s character, George Banks, says, “You have a little girl. An adorable little girl who looks up to you and adores you in a way you could never imagine. I remember how her little hand used to fit inside mine. How she used to sit in my lap and lean her head against my chest. She said that I was her hero. Then the day comes when she wants to get her ears pierced and she wants you to drop her off a block before the movie theater. Next thing you know she's wearing eye shadow and high heels. From that moment on, you're in a constant state of panic.”

Although, I’m not at the high heels and eye shadow stage yet, I see it coming. Granted, we still have several years to help shape her conscious, but soon, all that will be left for us to do is to trust.

Trust that my wife and I have brought her up with the high moral foundation that will keep her grounded upon her faith and her family. Trust that when she makes mistakes, she will rely on that faith and moral fabric to help her through it. And, trust that our prayers for her and her siblings will ultimately be answered.

Several years ago, my men’s faith group invited my wife’s all-girls high school principal, who happens to be a Sacred Heart nun, to talk to us about raising girls.

She said something that resonated with many of us. She said, “Fathers need to take their daughters out on dates so they can teach them how a man who loves them is supposed to treat them; before it is too late.”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until last November, and about four years after the fact, that I finally took my oldest daughter on a date. I took her to see the Taylor Swift concert (which by the way, I may have enjoyed more than her).

Aside from teaching her about how private parking lots and attendants try to rip off people in downtown Miami and standing in an endless line to get her and her sister concert t-shirts (talk about price gauging!), afterwards, I took her to a Cuban cafeteria by our house for some late night pastelitos (something my wife would never do!).

It was an amazing opportunity for one-on-one bonding time and hopefully, like her eleventh birthday party, it is a memory that will last a lifetime. Now, that I got the hang of it, I plan on asking her out on another date in the near future.

Nevertheless, I know that starting in about five or six years (and hopefully not sooner), I’ll be having as much fun as a man getting a prostate exam. Although, at least in my yearly exam, I know what to expect!

As for the party, and the aftershock of having hosted my first pre-teens birthday bash, like General Custer, I’m going to take a stand; no more eleven or twelve-year-old birthday parties for our two younger kids, no matter how much they will cherish it later!

Of course, that's easier said then done, Custer was not married to Sitting Bull (just kidding)…


Barbara Occhino said...

Ah my dear cousin, Carlos, I laugh as I read your piece. Having raised 2 daughters and thrown so many parties at my house, I can tell you that you are in for quite a ride. Buckle yourself in tight, my friend, It will be many sleepless nights and days of finding food and things in the oddest places weeks after the parties. But the upside is you'll always keep your eyes on your kid, even if you go broke feeding them. My house was where the teens came to eat unannounced and I always knew what was going on in and out of school -- as much as I could overhear when I "left the room" (muahaha) or they were willing to disclose. The harder part is when they go to friends' parties because you really can't control other parents' supervisions or kids they invite. I once "hired" 2 football players to stand at the door with a check list of who was invited. Parents dropped off uninvited kids at the front door and we had the hard task of having them sit on our porch and call to get picked up. For years, you may be the parent they hate because you follow strict rules. And you will hear many "no other parents make their kids clean toilets, work, have a curfew" and on and on. If you can pray and take lots of deep healing breaths and not break down in a moment of weakness and give in, you will raise strong, wonderful adults. Now that my one of my girls graduated college and the other is in her second year, I am in such a more peaceful parenting stage. I can't tell you the number of thank you's I get from them both for the same things they complained about during the teen years. Enlightenment and awareness come with maturity. We are blessed to have girls! Their love and hugs despite the challenges are God's gifts to us. - Barbara

Carlos Espinosa said...

Thanks, Barbara.

I guess, as Mark Twain says, the older they get, it's astonishing to them how much smarter we get.

I'm looking forward (reluctantly)...

Robert said...

I'm right behind you, Carlos.

Tammy said...

Thank you for focusing on your / your daughters growth and responsibility rather than going on a rant about the physical violence you will threaten on your daughters suitors. As a mom of young men, I cringe when people jokingly speak of the injury and insult that they plan to heap on young men who have not yet done anything wrong.

We dont teach respect with disrespect.

Our daughter (our baby) is a 15 1/2 yr old ballet dancer who is taller than me and dating is around the corner and panic is setting in.

Carlos Espinosa said...

Thank you for your kind words, Tammy.

Unfortunately, or I should say furtunately, since I am hopefull we are raising a good young lady, I'm right behind you...

Carlos Espinosa said...

And, didn't mean to leave you out; thank you Robert as always!...