Having said that and all things considered, everything is as it should be between my daughter and me. The distance thing (her in Florida, me here) has been an issue and I've restricted my role as "dad" accordingly. She is, after all, 16-going-on-17 and the standard issues of defiance and child becoming a woman are frankly, outside my purview and I am more a million miles away than some 2,000. At this point, the respect I give her matters more than the respect she holds for me.
Until recently, Nicole and her mom had been unconnected from the net. The few pix I have were the result of a friend who apparently had access. However, a few days back I got a call from Nicole's mom asking for my email address, my blog URL, etc., information I was happy to relinquish if only because it was another point of contact, another way to reveal myself to my daughter. Indeed, single-dad I am, I state on sites (OK Cupid and MySpace) that the best way to get to know me is to read this, here.
Which, um, seems counter-productive. At least in the dating scene. Reading through my archives I pretty much come across as an angry idiot. Which probably explains why I'm still single.
Excuse the digression. My point here is that my daughter also has her own MySpace page and has also started to blog (no link, alas). She's been emailing me her posts for reasons that should be obvious to all of you - it's certainly obvious to me. Her first two posts escaped mention from me, standard stabs at adolescent angst, heartfelt and well, banal, all the things we all suffered when we were that age, the confusion of having all the parts and no clue what to do with them. Equal parts appalled at the content and the atrocious grammar/spelling, I felt as I do when Zeke proudly presents me with pen scribbles on the back of the phone bill: "Oh, how wonderful" and "Why did you do that there?," appreciating the uninhibited creativity while wishing it was done better, somewhere else.
As I'm sure all of you are thinking about me at this moment.
There's something about being a dad and that intuition, that sense that there's more (or less) to our children's aspirations and waiting for our hopes to become manifest, their shining voice floating above the chatter of the playground, the moment where we smile and appreciate with complete authenticity and say, yes, this is excellent.
Nicole's third post was essentially a book report on her first viewing of American Beauty but oh, so much more. She told her readers what she felt as she allowed the movie to sweep her into that singular reality, how she interpreted the images, how there are other teenagers apprehending how fucked up so-called grown-ups can be and maybe being a fucked-up teenager isn't incongruent with how everything really is.
All my friends with teenagers tell me how embarrassment is an essential quality of their adolescent. I guess I remember some of that from my own old days but as a parent I can attest that the ineffable urge to embarass is inate. And although I never held Nicole when she was sticking My Little Pony stickers on her dresser and headboard and though I don't know her nearly as much as I'd like to as she starts slamming into adulthood, I can say unequivocally that daddy is very proud of his little girl.
I won't put her post here (if I had the URL you know I'd post it) and I'll only email you a copy of her post if she says it's OK though I'd say she'd be OK with me showing her work. Instead, my response to her post suffices at this point:
I am so happy you're sharing your writing with me. This post was especially good. Yes, the other posts showed your raw emotional side but this post revealed you actually thinking about something and reporting on it from your own perspective. Art is not us representing the world but representing how we PERCEIVE the world, the point of view we bring that actually adds to the world. Consider how empty and boring our world would be without paintings or music or poetry or literature. All of those things (and so much more) are memorable and timeless because they add to everything under the sun. They are unique and universal and, until the artist brought them forth, unknown to our existence of things we know.
I'm not going to critique your grammar or spelling. I'm too old to remember what it was like to be 16 or 17 (in many respects) so I'm reluctant to put a red pencil to what you've done. For the moment, I want you to write and write and write - which you seem to be doing. It's only through doing that we refine our craft.
I don't know if you've been reading my blog at all and if you have, I don't expect you to fully understand many of the things I say. I write with the advantage of someone whose had years and years of a college education and many more years of someone who fell in love with books from an early age.
If there's any other advice I can offer than "write - ALL THE TIME" it's to read, read like there's not enough time to read all you want to know. If someone enters an art-study program, they study all kinds of other artist's work; if one decides to be an actor, they study how others have made a character their own. Reading allows to see how an artist has taken their view of the world and presented that view as their own.
I am so proud of you when you strive to become something more than you are right now, to do well in school, to be a great role-model for your sisters, to look into the future and realize there is nothing that you can't do. Please hold onto that and remember that everything you do that makes you a deeper, more realized person are the things that make me happy. More importantly, those very same things are what will make you more happy. Anything else is immediate gratification and as such, empty calories.
I love you so very much,
She is my daughter, indeed: dark and dramatic, flambouyant, searching for love because we've both been rejected - in profound ways. She'd love it if I posted her pretty piece of writing. The more embarassing thing for daddy to do is paste his letter to her and as you see, that's been done.
I'm a dad. That's what I do.