Last Friday I took Ellie to the park for our Daddy Daughter date. It was something in the works for some time and it was worth the walk there and back. I wish there was a way to capture on paper the joyous sound she made as the stroller rolled closer and closer to our destination. It was infectious. I laughed with delight as she ran up and down the jungle gym but paused with horror as she approached the slide. It was a BIG KID slide, with a twist and everything! instinctively, I ran up the gym to join her for what could only be seen as an adorable gesture of love and protection to all around. Not so to Ellie.
She, with command in her voice like a linebacker calling a blitz, said aloud, “No DADDY, I do it, kay?!”
And with that she went down the slide, leaving me the go down after her turn was over, looking more this time like a creep than adorable father.
Now Ellie has been using that line a lot lately for just about everything but at that moment, I realized in a small way that I was losing my little girl. Over-dramatic you might say…crazy even! I say, I don’t care! I remember when she was completely dependent on Becca and I (mostly Becca for obvious gender reasons) for everything. I mean, she couldn’t burp without someone to tap her back. I remember how fun it was to teach her how to walk and how through Pickering Town Center, she’d hold my hand for balance, while I’d hold her hand for comfort. I remember how she’d cuddle with us on the couch and give kisses and hugs.
Now it’s like living with a teenager! She won’t be caught dead holding me hand in the house, let alone in public. Cuddling has been replaced with a calls for Elmo & Dora. Kisses are given at her pace, not our own. And now she can do things on her own, like pick her clothes, walk down the stairs, use a grown up fork, climb up chairs and into her car seat…the list may not be big to you (or you may have a kid who is more advanced…prolly not but still…lol) but to me it’s huge. Here’s why…
…soon she’ll be able to read on her own, potty on her own, ride on two wheels, go to school on the bus, go to sleepovers, go to the movies, apply for college, go on a date (…oh God help me…and then HIM…), make decisions…everything. Of course she’ll still need me but my role will change from teacher to chauffeur to bank, to the “No-You-Can’t-Guy“, to the scapegoat, to the last resort advice to whatever she needs.
There are some days when I love the fact that makes progress, like today when we got her day care report card and we saw that she is doing great in every area. I love that she can talk so much (thanks to her sisters Jenna, Leah and Allie), dance, sing, pray and more. I love that now she knows how to play hide and seek, can count and become her own self. But at the same time, I miss being able to pick her up and simply carry her. I miss having to guess what she wanted and stuff. And this will be the rest of my life: being proud of the woman she’s becoming while missing the kid she was.
One day you’ll look at this letter and not believe me when I say that you used to cuddle with me all the time. You’ll think the pics were created on Photoshop or whatever we have at this point. But nope. At one point in your life, you were my little girl. You’d reach up to be picked up not out of laziness but simply out of need and I was happy to give it to you. You’d sit in the back of the car and listen to music with me and not roll your eyes at my dance move but instead, you’d dance like me. You’d hold my hand and tell me you loved me in front of your friends. We’d have sleepovers when you were sick and freezes on the steps together. You’d sing Elmo’s World, Justin Bieber (remember the guy who was working at the Gap that one time? Yup, he used to be HUGE!) and Dora all day. You weren’t always so independent…but you’ve grown up to be strong, capable, smart, beautiful (I mean you DO look like your mom, kiddo), talented and accomplished.
I watched everything and was proud all the time as I am now. I watched as those innocent green eyes took in the world and became mature and wise. I watched as you dealt with heartbreak, questions of faith and issues of morality and came out on the other side with everything intact. I am so proud of you, Eliana. And I’m thankful that from time to time, you still needed my help. And as it was when you were learning to walk, I’ll hold your hand through anything until you tell me as you did at two years old…
…No daddy. I do it, kay?
Love you, kiddo.