Last week – let’s pin this on Monday – Haley Anne was still thirteen. Long legs, almond-eyed, and a fury on the soccer pitch. I’ll add adored by her Daddy, for good measure. But, that’s hardly news to the loyal followers of this Blog.
Haley Anne has always been wired for independence. She was never likely to hurl herself off of a four-story roof top with a home made parachute like I did at ten. But, she has her own mind and the steely resolve to realize it. She’s been a handful lately getting the sense of herself with all the trials-and-tribulations that come with being a teenage girl in the savage hallways of Middle School. All-in-all I’m quite pleased with her. Joanne takes the brunt and the heat of Haley Anne’s hormone-drenched temperament, while I still have more opportunities than not to be the hero. But, I’m navigating dark waters on any given day.
Mondays… They loom over us don’t they? Whereas Tuesdays are best for police raids, it’s Mondays that herald a week full of opportunity. …This includes life’s unexpected lessons.
Last Monday was the first day of the new school year and Haley Anne is now in the eighth grade. Middle school is tough, and the girls that are found in the halls are often colorful enough to put a New York City Vice Squad on edge. Haley Anne arrived safely home (she actually enjoys the bus) and was full of war stories. Most of them are of middling consequence, to me, any way – and, to yourselves, naturally. And, I was probably more focused on the evening’s soccer practice, and being content with the fact that her dress was evidently well regarded, her classes found without adventure, and her lunch crowd cordial.
We’ll step lively forward with this tale, acknowledging only that the above preamble is insufficient to signal the change of life that has forever altered my own world view. …That aforementioned, and unexpected, life lesson.
Dinner was a quick bite of lasagna before we were off to practice. That went swell as usual. Then home to a few quick emails and bed. Sleep comes fast in my head. The pillow and a death-like coma are quick and easy friends, for me.
But… With her uncanny ability to unhinge me from any deep sleep Joanne shoved my shoulder later that evening with a curt:
“you need to read this”.
What I heard in Joanne’s voice was a mixture of bemused angst (its possible, and Joanne, being English has it perfected). I wasn’t expecting a foreclosure notice or ransom note so I was a bit slow to pull myself together for thought leadership. However glowing in the dark, and hovering in front of my face was Haley Anne’s iPhone (I knew this because mine is an iPhone 4, while Haley Anne’s is a 3G, and emma Jo’s 3G [minus SIMs Card] has a crack in the screen). All this quickly spun out of my head as I was shocked into alertness by the message:
“I LOve You. Let’s get back together”.
I’m not sure if it was adrenalin, fear, anger, numbing shock, or unrepentent outrage that surged through my body like spinach might Pop-eye from the old cartoons. But, I must have read the message ten times before I simply asked Joanne:
“who the hell sent that to Haley Anne?”
The simple response was:
“_____ – the kid from summer”.
So… Here’s the abbreviated background scenario…
Many of Haley Anne’s friends are involved in some form or another with “boyfriends”. In our household, the rule is NO BOYFRIENDS until our daughters are fifteen years of age. None. That’s it. And, that means the stuff that goes along with boyfriends. Any of it. Period. Haley Anne apparently caught the eye of this young fellow last year, and he launched a deluge of texts at her all summer. Joanne had a series of talks with Haley Anne that I won’t burden you with. But, we were satisfied that Haley Anne understood the rules and we have a clear and binding covenant in our family. I trust my daughter. And, I’m developing trust and faith in her judgment. I’m training her to be a leader in both her thinking and actions.
All along the way, I’m also being trained by my daughters, and life, as seen through their eyes, to be more open-minded and open-hearted.
I drove Haley Anne to school the next day. I asked her along the way if she wanted to talk to me about “_____”. She paused before answering barely enough to gather her breath because she’s a quick thinker, and wit, that one.
“he’s only a friend Daddy. I know what I want; and, it’s not a boyfriend. I just like having a lot of great friends.”
That helped me. And, reaffirmed Haley Anne has her wits about me – or, is a brilliant actress. I’ll submit there is all that afoot. But, here is how I’m handling this matter:
“I love you with all my heart, and I’m more proud of you you each and every day. There is a lot of change afoot. And, I need your help. If you ever think you know what love is, or start to have feelings for some lucky lad, I want you to try something… In fact, let’s give it a go this week… Find a poem that you think and feel is about love. You can’t be wrong. Just try. Just like in football (soccer) – give it your best. You can never disappoint me with effort. It’s all about interpretation. All I really care about is your opinion, your thinking, and your feelings. You can write the poem if you want to. The only rule is that it has to be something you would be willing to read and give to a person you think you love. That might be a test that you are ready to share your heart with someone other than me.”
My voice cracked, just a bit. So, she knew where all of this was coming from.
She was quiet. And, looked at me. I got the simple, slow, gentle nod with the far away look behind the eyes.
I love being a Dad. And, I trust my daughter. I’m putting a lot of faith on the line. I feel great. But, I also have the same feeling in the pit of my stomach that I have before a big race or other competition.
Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.
Brian Patrick Cork