But this time, I’m going to be honest.
As I write this, the house is quiet, the family is asleep, the dogs are snoring and no one will be able to watch my eyes tear up and my face flush as I tell a loyal bunch of readers how proud I am of my step-daughter (I hate that word. She’s my daughter by everything but biology).
On Tuesday, The Diva turned 16. She has grown up before my eyes in so many ways, growing from a precocious little girl into a beautiful young woman. And part of what makes it so hard is that in some ways I feel like I’ve failed her.
Oh, I’m good in an argument. I thrive on confrontation. I even kind of like to fight — verbally of course. When it’s time to do the dishes, to clean up her room or to send the boyfriend home for the night, I’m your man. But when it comes to being there — I mean really there — I’m afraid I’ve been more coward than confidant. And for that I have nothing but regret and myself to blame.
The joy — and in my case, the saving grace — of being a parent, is that every day offers an opportunity to be better.
But that’s not to say I haven’t been paying attention. We’ve had our rough patches (My Lovely Wife has a dog-eared, heavily underlined copy of “Yes, Your Teen is Crazy” in her bedside drawer to prove it), and she’s a teenager through and through, but The Diva — who’s really not a diva at all — has come out the other side scarred but smarter, to quote Drivin’ ‘n’ Cryin’.
She’s self-motivated, driven, insightful, headstrong, intelligent and quite possibly the most skilled debater this side of Christopher Hitchens.
Don’t believe me? Think I’m sugar-coating?
After a choir concert in which The Diva sang, her Latin teacher (yep, she takes freaking’ Latin and is making straight A’s), came up to My Lovely Wife and said, “Are you Sarah’s mother?” Now, for most other parents, this is when blood turns to ice water. “Yes,” answered My Lovely Wife. “I just wanted to tell you much I’ve enjoyed teaching her this year.”
This is the same child who has been known to email pictures of chemistry grades she’s particularly proud of.
In this space, I tend to harp on the negative … the nasty room, the eye-rolling, the tantrums and the skeevy boyfriends, but The Diva deserves better. Truth is, if it weren’t for The Diva, I wouldn’t be the father I am to Jellybean. Because of her, I’ve learned patience, to laugh at myself and that nothing is ever as bad as it seems (or as much as my OCD commands). The Diva, to sound cliché, has taught me how to love a child.
On her birthday, she deserves to know that she’s given more gifts to me than I’ve ever bought for her. I am so thankful that this is just the beginning of her life. And if she’s willing, I’ll be there every step of the way to tell her how proud I am … this time, it’ll be face-to-face.
She deserves it.
Contact Brett Buckner at email@example.com.