Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ain't My Baby No More . . .

Suddenly, I understand.

It’s not the aches, pains or old man sounds I emit at the slightest movement. It’s not the grey in my beard or the chrome on my dome. It’s not my oldest son crossing that final threshold to adulthood tomorrow (Happy Birthday Nate) or my youngest son’s continuing struggle toward the same.

It’s this:

Gorgeous, isn’t she?

In less than a month, she’ll be 10 years old. Double digits baby, and we all know what that means. Pre-teen is the technical term, but there’s nothing technical about dealing with a young lady. Technically, the same applies to dealing with any lady, but that’s a different Vent.

Thanks to a convergence in weather and work, I have a rare Thursday off and was able to attend Lexy’s Holiday Concert, which showcased the burgeoning musical talents of her and her school mates. The preparation phase of today’s performance was interesting, as I watched Lexy choose an outfit and fuss with her hair (which is one of –if not the only- best thing about her developing maturity: her ability to dress and groom herself without parental assistance). The selection of proper footwear seemed to stall things for a moment, given the icy conditions and skirt length, but eventually a choice was made, one I heartily supported even if I didn’t understand it.

I went to the school and found a seat in the bleachers, flanked on the right by students and on the left by parents. One father had his hands full with a squirming toddler and another dad had to keep shushing his son who was reciting the stationary refrain of the old-time classic “Are we there yet.” I chuckled at their travails and remembered all the times I wrestled and shushed.

Those days are long gone.

I looked across the makeshift auditorium and spotted Lexy. We exchanged waves and upturned thumbs, but that was the extent of our pre-event communication. Lex didn’t seem too bothered by the lack of long-distance father-daughter bonding and resumed whispering and giggling with her friends.

That’s when it hit me.

She’s growing up. She’s no longer a baby (a fact I internalized a long time ago), nor is she a toddler (a fact I still have difficulty accepting). The percentage of a day she’s under my direct supervision wouldn’t classify her for part-time status if she worked for me and the amount of influence I wield with my daughter pales when compared to the authority I have over my staff.

Constant care is now an ethereal concept, no longer the top line on a daily to-do list. My coaching role is now restricted to pre-game prep and post-game analysis, regardless of my desire to call in plays from the sideline. My headset’s been confiscated.

Anyway, the choir sang, the band played, but the show opened with a medley of tunes played by a gaggle of fourth graders blowing into plastic Precorders (Yup, you read that correctly: Precorders, which I assume has more to do with unit cost and ease of operation than musical aesthetics). No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t pick Lexy’s playing out of the crowd, but I saw her head bobbing and fingers wiggling so I’m assuming she did fine, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t distracted.

The Elmo crowd on my side of the gym and the Bratz Doll contingent across the way was a wake up call. Lexy’s not the only one aging and she’s not the only one doing it subtly. If it takes distance to recognize her maturity, it shouldn’t surprise me that I can’t see it in the mirror that’s two feet in front of my face.

Actually, it’s more like six inches when I’m not wearing my glasses.

But Then Again, You’ll Have This . . .

That’s my best girl in the red sweater.
December 15, 2005.

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