A Sad/Proud Dad

From 2003 to 2014—my Swan Angel of Love.
From 2003 to 2014—my Swan Angel of Love.

My daughter’s name is Casey. Tomorrow morning she graduates from elementary school.

I am overjoyed.

I am heartbroken.

I’m pretty sure this is the sort of mixed emotional state only a parent could understand; the pride in seeing your child grow and expand and mature; the sadness in knowing, with each day, a tiny bit of youth fades away, never to return.

Back when the wife first learned she was pregnant, I leaned toward wanting a daughter. Having grown up with one sibling (a brother) and one cousin (a boy) and a divorced uncle, I was used to being surrounded by men. The idea of a little girl struck me as something intriguing and exciting and unique.

In hindsight, those words are inadequate. It’s magical.

I love Casey as much as I’ve loved anyone. When she was an infant, I used to stop her crying by walking her up and down the steps while rapping Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre lyrics. When she was 2, we listened to KISS Unplugged repeatedly, until “Rock Bottom” became her favorite song and this poster hung above her bed (we had to take a black marker to Peter Criss’ chest). When Casey was 3, I (inexplicably) took her parasailing. At 5 she rode her first heavy-duty roller coaster. Casey and I have painted each others’ nails dozens of times, though she won’t go near my feet. We play cards most nights. She used to love the solar system, but no longer cares. She’s still a sucker for American Girl and tea parties and fancy dresses and lip gloss. The first time she got her ears pierced, they got infected. We had to have them pierced again. She cried both times.

I’m babbling, and fear this is a pretty thin post. Here’s the truth: Tonight, I’m sad. Really, really sad. I can’t express how much I love this girl, and how desperately I want her to stay forever young. I know it makes no sense; I know I should appreciate her growth and development. It’s just … I hate how fast childhood whooshes by. We force feed our kids all these after-school classes and sports and competitions, forgetting that the free time to play and engage is invaluable. Then you blink—and they’re off to college; grown and never again young. I’m helpless in this regard. There’s nothing to be done.

I’m just … sad.