Raising a child is, without a single doubt, hard as hell. But, there are moments.
I don't talk about my family a lot here. It's been something I've semi-consciously done, and not because this is my blog and therefore all about me. I learned somewhere that life is easier when you keep family separate from work, and while I don't see blogging as work I do see it as something with a fair importance in my life, and with the opportunity to really impact my family, so I stand as the barrier.
Well, I'm going to let a little bit through because every parent has to, at some point, be proud in public of their child.
Last year, my daughter had her first school-sponsored dance. Now, her father had never been a very social person, especially at school. I hated school, and never had the desire nor the popularity nor the ability to overcome my crippling shyness long enough to attend a dance, so I never did. Not a one. I've tried my best as the years have gone on to help my daughter overcome her seemingly genetic shyness by being as social as I can with her, introducing her to new circumstances and people and putting her in the forefront of public interaction whenever possible. She still, however, grew up shy. And so it was quite a shock to me when she told me that she wanted to attend this dance.
I knew she hung out at school with a small clique of girls whom she considered friends, and I knew that she was far and away the quiet one of the group but I also had never heard any mention of any little boy in her circle of friends. But I was pleased as could be that she wanted to attend, and backed her up 100%. Oohed and aahed over a pretty dress that she and her grandmother picked out, and quite naturally leaped at the chance to volunteer when the dance sponsors asked for parent chaperones.
That evening I put on my best black T-shirt, my black boots, sharpened my moustaches to hard fine points and wore my best black Kangol. I loaded up my lovely, makeup-wearing daughter and went to the dance. I signed us both in and watched with no small trepidation as my little girl disappeared into the dark, music-throbbing gymnasium, followed by a small pack of her giggling girl friends. It was a disturbing time for me, realising that my little girl was becoming a woman, with all those attendant needs and desires.
I didn't see her again for three very long hours.
When she returned at the end of the dance, I knew something was wrong. Like her father she wears her emotions on her face and her heart on her sleeve. I got her back to the car and headed back toward home before I broached the subject of what happened, and my heart broke as she started crying. She had spent the entire dance as a wallflower until literally the last dance. A boy had approached her and asked her to dance, she accepted, and as best I can understand it he immediately turned to another girl whom I can only assume he was more attracted to, and asked HER to dance, leaving my daughter to wonder just what had transpired, and leaving her hopes and her happiness dead on the polished wood floor.
A long, tear- and talking-filled trip home got her nerves settled and her dignity and her self-assuredness shored back up, but it left a mark on my heart like a branding iron, a mark that has yet to fade, and I doubt will ever fade. Anger, combined with a desire for retribution, combined with the sure and certain knowledge that the world was teaching my daughter in it's on inimitable way that it is anything but fair. I didn't like it, but I knew it was bound to happen, and I know that it will continue to happen.
And as it is wont to do, time passed. A whole year.
My daughter grew some more, learned some more, and when the annual school dance came around again she smilingly offered me the signature form. She wanted to go dancing. Needless to say I was shocked but I agreed. Who am I to refuse my daughter what she wants? I didn't tell her that I had a heart-full of trepidation; fear that I would pick her up with tears clouding her dark eyes again. I could feel hope pushing around all that fear, though, like a very small man trying to elbow his way through a crowd of fat men crowding the spotlight. Hope that springs eternal, hope that This Time Things Would Be Different.
She dressed to the nines, polished her fingernails, put on her favourite dragon necklace, and I drove her to the dance. I had some vague thought about standing in as guard/chaperone but this time around the school had signed on several Sheriff's deputies as overseers and hadn't asked for parental involvement, so I dropped her off, double-checked our pickup time (two hours later, on the dot,) made certain she was in and drove home with a heart in which fear warred with hope.
Come eight o'clock I was standing outside the gym's parking lot smoking a cigar trying to hide my fear, deciding my chances against outrunning or outfighting the pair of very large deputies if events dictated that I had to kill some little boy who had broken my daughter's heart. When she appeared in the doorway and started heading toward me she was smiling and her step had a little bounce to it, and that little tiny man in the fedora managed a superhuman effort and shoved the fat guys out of the way to stand, triumphant, in the limelight, not sure why but certain that his name had been called.
I loaded her up, buckled us in and broached, very gently, the subject. "So," I said, my voice probably quavering a little, "How did it go?"
It came out in a tumble that she had not danced, the only reason being that she only liked to slow dance and the DJ didn't play a slow song, but that a little boy who she said "...likes to hang out at recess with me and try to make me laugh" had stayed with her quite a while waiting for that slow song to appear, so he could dance with her.
I didn't whoop aloud because that would be unseemly, but that little man in the limelight high-fived a whole crowd of his friends who had suddenly appeared beside him. My daughter wasn't entirely the shy flower I was, and was reaping the benefits. Life had taught her another lesson, and this one didn't have to hurt so bad.
Now all I have to do is start sitting on the front porch cleaning my pistol, and practice saying with a straight face, "Boy, my daughter is the only person I'd go back to jail for."