My daughter turns nine this Saturday. Nine. I’m not really sure if I can comprehend that. I understand the number; I know it means she was born on January 20th, 1998. I know it means she’s been in my house since September 11th, 1998. Yet, I feel cheated somehow. I know the years since have happened, but it feels like some cosmic joker turned on the fast forward button. My baby is turning nine this weekend. How the hell did that happen?
She was born in Pusan, South Korea, to the same woman who gave birth to my son in 1996. Zaphod was already in our home, adopted, and a US ctizen by that time. We’ve been asked a hundred times, so I’ll answer now: no, we don’t have any information on the birth father(s). Trillian was unexpected, from our end. Lintilla and I had intentions of adopting later that year, so to say it was a surprise when our social worker called and told us we had a daughter that needed to come home would be an understatement.
I grew up in a family of three boys, so you could say that having a baby girl in the house has been a series of new discoveries. Don’t laugh, but I had no idea that girls’ hips were wider than boys from birth. I always thought that was a product of puberty. I don’t understand the world of hair bows, ribbons, charm bracelets, or any of those other things she gets at Claire’s. I still don’t get the fascination with horses. I love it, though.
We recently had another adventure I wasn’t ready for. Trillian one morning came into the kitchen wearing a light T-shirt. I said “Good Morning” and continued on with my business, but something about the fleeting glance caused me to look again. I looked a third time. Then, I went to the room where Lintilla was, grabbed her, asked her to discreetly investigate the situation and come back and explain to me what I had just seen.
She came back laughing at me. “They are ‘buds'”, she said. I stared blankly at her. “It’s the body’s way of preparing her to have breasts. We’ll have to teach her to wear an undershirt from now on.”
“They are pre-boobs?”
“What are they doing on our 8-year-old daughter? Can she take something for it?”
“You’re hopeless”, Lintilla said, walking away.
I have spent the last 9 years simultaneuosly in love with my daughter, and in a full-blown panic about her. She fascinates me, and she terrifies me. She has the sweetest way about her. She has a power over me that no female ever has before: not my mother, old girlfriends, not even my wife. This is different. She can manipulate me at will. But she doesn’t. At nine years old, she’s one of the most decent, compassionate people I know. She is also an above-grade student with a killer sense of humor.
When I asked God for a daughter, I wasn’t expecting a girl this beautiful. As a baby, when people saw her they would audibly gasp before saying how beautiful she was. This sort of thing has gone on for years; it’s only abated a little bit here in her school-age years. Needless to say, this has me terrified. I am only a few years away from boys calling the house, coming by, sending her emails. Boys! Looking at my baby in that way! I didn’t sign up for this! Well, yes I did.
It gets even worse. I know boys/men because I’m one of them. There’s a certain type of boy who will be drawn to her, seeing her as ‘exotic’. No one with this kind of motivation can be up to any good. I trust her completely, because she’s one of the most decent souls I know, but a part of me wants to show all those little snots my shotgun (which I’ll have to go buy pretty soon).
I am in a panic because I know that things will start to change very dramatically soon. The hormones will come. Her personality will totally change. I am dreading the knock down, drag out fights with her mother over the silliest of things. Soon, she’ll be swooning over some boy who will break her heart, or she’ll start dressing all in black and raging against me for being a white, Republican, polluting, patriarchal male. Days are coming when she might retreat to her room, bragging about her (hopefully fictional) sexual exploits on MySpace. To her, I will cease to be “Daddy”, and will become simply the recipient of rolled eyes. We are on the edge of the Storm, and I know it.
But not today. She is in her room, laying on her stomach on the floor, doing math homework. Sara Evans plays on the radio, and every now and then she sings along, not knowing I am watching. Something comes to her mind, and she looks to the distance and smiles sweetly.
Right now, she is perfect.
I play chicken with the cosmos. I summon all the power of my will, in an effort to stop the advance of time, right here, right now. The clock on the wall says, “click“. I fail miserably.
She sees me, gets up, and closes her door. She’s about to turn nine, and a girl needs her privacy.
Deep within me is a dull, hardly perciptible ache. My girl turns nine this Saturday.