I’m still reeling from the fact that my little girl turned 15 years old this month, and that I’ve been a father for a decade and a half. That’s just nuts.
In Simone’s honor, I wrote a list called “15 AWESOME THINGS ABOUT BEING SIMONE’S DAD” for an app I’m beta-testing. I like how it came out, so, with minor modifications (and links), I’m repurposing it here.
1. She makes me laugh.
Simone's unique perspectives have always led to odd and hilarious pronouncements, but as she's grown into a teenager, her snarky observations have me gasping for air. And don't get me started about her quick pun mastery — it's painful.
2. She’s a geek goddess, which means we share in the good stuff.
Honestly, I sometimes feel guilty that I’ve raised my daughter to know the names of all the dwarves in The Hobbit, or to be able to quote Star Trek (original, TNG, the new flicks). But we read Neuromancer together last summer, and I loved how the storytelling blew her away. Thank goodness she has geeky, scifi-loving friends.
3. Her obsession with anime makes me appreciate it, too.
Whether it's her favorite genre (realistic urban dystopias) — like Hamatora or Un-Go or Durarara; the oddly spiritual (which can be sweet and sad, weird and inscrutable) — like Norigami or Kyosougiga; or just the fucking bizarre, Simone has an eye for quality in storytelling, animation, and world-building. The stuff she sets us aside for us to watch together is always worth my time.
4. She’s her own person. And she knows it. Which helps me breathe easier.
Simone is one of those quirky outsider-types. And she's actually okay with that. Though her sense of self gets her in trouble (often), I know it'll serve her well as she grows into adulthood.
5. I don't have to wait for non-parenting times (or to meet that one right girl) to go on travel adventures.
Yes, I would love a smart, hot, grownup travel companion, but Simone is pretty much the best travel buddy I've ever had. In London, Kyoto, Nîmes, wherever — and whether we've travelled 18 hours straight or just took an hour drive for a snowboarding weekend — she's almost always flexible and good humored, excited for the next adventure. She knows how to be gracious in a foreign country, too, which is key to truly experiencing someplace new.
6. She eats like me.
I can't tell you how special it is to eat with someone who gets it. Simone has been raised to taste everything, and appreciate the care and craft that goes into making a delicious dish. Which is both fulfilling (yay! We can try new places together!) and daunting (damn! My daughter and I just demolished a $200 dinnerl!).
7. Being with Simone enhances everything.
It seems like a cliché, but it's really real. Going to the grocery store is so much more fun when she's with me. Sitting at home reading our books is its own kind of magic. With Simone, traveling to cities I've visited before, or watching movies I've seen a dozen times (must introduce her to the canon), or reading a beloved novel aloud together allows me to experience them as if they were new, through her eyes. Which gives them new textures and resonance.
8. Because of her, I'll be a really good boyfriend/partner/husband (someday)
So many of my single friends have been solo for so long, they've become set in their routines, and have lost that nurturing touch. But being responsible for a young person's health and wellbeing keeps me in practice. Whether it's little gestures of affection, or packing healthy lunches (with a note) and cooking up healthy dinners, I know how to take care of someone. And being the dad of a sensitive, sophisticated teen means I've learned how to become a good listener, too.
9. She keeps me humble.
Leave it to your offspring to let you know when you're a total dork, irrational, or just being weird. Simone knows my quirks and bad habits, and isn't afraid to speak up when they manifest themselves. Having her around means I never take myself too seriously — when she's laughing at me, how can I not laugh, too?
10. I’m a better person, and a better man, because of her.
Not only do I strive to be a good role model (moral, ethical, appreciating the magic in each moment, copping to my mistakes and taking responsibility), but knowing there's a person counting on me to be present and protective means making more of the right choices whether she's around or not. Striving to deserve her, to model how a man should act, and to be true to myself, translates to who I am as a person.
11. I don't have to listen to (much) shitty music.
We've all heard the nightmare of the hapless dad attending teen pop concerts with his little girl. J-pop and anime theme songs aside, Simone's sophisticated and judgmental taste in music is a direct result of sharing my great loves with her. She's seen more than 55 bands play already — graduating from The Go-Gos and U2 to Arctic Monkeys, Black Keys, and even Violent Femmes. The Decemberists are coming (her all-time fave) in May. Awaiting Fleet Foxes and Fratellis someday.
12. Feeding Simone's interests means I live better, too. And I learn lots of stuff along the way.
Her lifelong obsession with dinosaurs has led to kick-ass museum visits and fascinating conversations with scientists. Her appreciation of Japanese culture turned into a two-week exploration that changed both of our lives for real. I love being able to arrange for unique experiences based on the things that she finds fascinating.
13. Enforced quiet evenings at home.
I love to go out. This is an old, old post about that, when I was still drinking caveman cocktails! Whether it's a bit o' bourbon at my home bar, or a full on bender, I spend way too much time and money on food and cocktails. Since Simone was a little girl, her bedtime routine has been the same: wash teeth and brush face, get in bed, read a chapter from a novel aloud, quick snuggle, kiss on the forehead. And then, for me, it's scotch + couch + guilty pleasure TV. Sure, I experience some FOMO, but it's so good to have no choice but to be home.
14. Feeling needed.
I'm the guy with the sage advice, the one who can fix things, the man with the hanky when the meltdown starts. I'm the one whose goofy joke elicits a reluctant smile. I'm the one with the heating pad and hot tea. I won't always be her primary source of solace, but I'll always be there when she needs me. It feels good to be needed, and to be able to provide.
Even though she's a young woman now, Simone is still a kid in many ways. She still calls me "Daddy" sometimes, and I still get more hugs than teen eye rolls. As a parent, you finally understand that your own parents often need you more than you need them. Hugs from your own kid are magical, healing, affirming messages from someplace deep, and they never lose their potency.
I can feel Simone starting to break away. It makes my heart ache. She was headed out of town last week, so I offered to pick her up at school for a quick lunch before she left. But she waved me off via a sweet text, preferring one last hour with her friends. I didn’t lay on the guilt; I just told her I understood.
And I know this is just the beginning.
But, damn, I feel so lucky for the time we’ve had together so far.