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Our daughter Casey turns 14 today.

Generally speaking, my kids’ birthdays bring me more sadness than joy. I use the days to think about how quickly the two have grown, and how they’re now these fully formed people with increasingly little need for Dad.

Casey, for example, used to have me tuck her in every night. I’d lie down alongside her and tell stories, or sing a song, or just chat about life.

Alas, that ritual died long ago.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed Casey as much as I do in her present form. She’s funny and quirky and preposterously interesting. A few weeks ago I asked what music she was listening to, and she said, randomly, “Alice Cooper.” Then it was Ozzy. Then it was Black Sabbath. Today, for reasons I still don’t pretend to understand, she was sitting in the back seat, jamming to Spanish pop.

It’s all so … fascinating. Casey likes keeping the back of her hair dyed blue. She has read some of her books 15 … 20 times. She eats almost no vegetables, and could go 10 years on cheese and bread. She doesn’t particularly like hugs or kisses. She’s a water polo fanatic and a kid who prefers (like, without a second’s debate) school to summer. She has a ridiculous ability to remember song lyrics.

Am I sad she’s not the little girl who raised her arms whenever we entered the room? Sure. But if we’re honest with ourselves, those toddler years could be pretty maddening. It’s a one-way relationship, with the child taking and the adult giving. Now, I’m genuinely interested to learn what happened in the course of Casey’s day; I want to hear her thoughts and opinions; to talk politics and music and water polo and chicken.

Anyhow, I’m a very proud father on a very big day.

Fourteen is nothing to cry over.

It’s a celebration.