As the tears rolled down my daughter’s face, I realized I should have prepared him for this. I should have taken the time to explain to him why it is not a good idea to tell your 12 year old daughter her hair looks the same as it did before. (Before, meaning after spending 45 minutes on it.) Or if you do say something, have it be a compliment, or better yet, just don’t say anything. I should have told him what these tears meant or didn’t mean. What could be going on, or not, and more than anything I should have told him, that at 12, this is all normal.
He couldn’t wait to be a father, and after our second daughter was born, he was thrilled to have another daughter to love. He quickly learned the fine art of the tea parties, pink tutus and the perfect ponytail (which he proudly bragged to friends.) As our girls became older, they in turn, adored their daddy. He let them paint his nails and give him spa facials. The years went by quickly, and soon he was taking them to My Gym classes, swim lessons and father-daughter dances. He couldn’t wait to register them for soccer or softball or any sport really. He loves coaching our 10 year’s old softball team, and each spring can’t wait to pull out the bats, balls and talk “shop” with her.
Lately, though. It’s become harder and harder for him to relate to 12. He misses his little girl.
They have always had wonderful relationship and a solid foundation. She loves him and respects him, but is frustrated by his strictness and overprotectiveness. He doesn’t want his baby girl growing up so fast and she can’t wait. His funny jokes in front of her friends are now terribly embarrassing to her, and lately I find myself in the middle of their arguments. The more she pulls away, the stricter he becomes. Being an only child, he has no idea what it’s like to grow up with a sister, so this is all new and very strange to him. He has no idea what is going on inside her. What the tears mean, and what they don’t mean. Or what her silence means, and how truly normal this whole thing is. But really, how could he when most of the time she doesn’t know either? It’s a newness for both of them. As I watch this beautiful girl become an adult, I can see some of what’s about to come, but no matter how much I want to jump in and fix things, I can’t. All I can do is help guide her through this time. This in-between stage of girl/womanhood. And sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s confusing and yes, sometimes (many times) there are tears.
Yes, I should have better prepared my husband for the day she no longer runs to him first, but rather facetimes her bestie. I should have told him that there will be tears, boy crushes, mean girls, and drama. But more importantly I should have prepared him for what happens when his precious baby girl grows up and stops playing tea parties.
How one day she will wake up and no mater how many times you tell her she is kind, and strong and beautiful, she will not believe you. I should have told him that it’s not him, it’s just something that happens to a 12 year old girl. Her body and mind is rapidly changing and there is no way he will be able to keep up. How one day you just hate your hair or your braces or the favorite dress that you used to love. How it feels like to walk in the halls of middle school and think everyone is staring at you. Or what it’s like to be happy and sure of yourself one day and insecure and sad the next. What it feels like to not fit in, or not have the right outfit/shoes/hair.
Being a 12 year old is confusing. You are leaving behind your childhood, yet not quite a teenager. This person who I used to walk up and down the stairs for hours on end when she was a baby to help her fall asleep is now shaving her legs, and just last week asked to use my foundation. And seems to spend endless amounts of time on the phone, and is babysitting neighborhood children. She is kind and thoughtful, and making plans (which more often than not do not include a dad tagging along).
And as hard as it is for me to let her grow up and do things on her own, I get it. I was there, and know exactly what this feels like. But I am starting to realize just how hard this is for my husband. He has no idea. The girl he once knew is no longer. Wait, I tell him. Just wait. And be there.
I should have tried harder to prepare him for the tears. For the silence. For the confusion. For the moments when she needs a little space. For the times when even she won’t even know why she’s crying. And by just being there for her and loving her is all she needs from him.
All I can do is remind him that she will always be his girl, no matter what her age. And she will always need her dad. Even through the tears.