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Daddies, It’s OK to Miss Your Little Girls

28 Aug

by Roger White

Watching my oldest daughter stride so smartly into her senior year of high school, and my youngest girl, a sophomore, confidently follow in her steps, I found myself struck recently with a peculiar mix of great pride and vague twinges of guilt. It took me some soul-searching and serious contemplation—and serious contemplation comes grindingly hard for me these days—to determine the root of my emotional mélange, but I think I figured it out: I miss my little girls. And I feel guilty for missing them because they’re not even gone!

But in a way, they are.

Somewhere along the line, at some moment in time among those precious years, my little girls grew up. Somewhere between those nights reading them Goodnight Moon while they settled to sleep in their Winnie-the-Pooh footsies and then suddenly watching them, dressed so beautifully, walk out the door with their boyfriends, my babies became young women. How did that happen?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll the old jokes about sitting on the front porch with a shotgun aside, watching one’s little girls mature into womanhood is such a tough and tender time for fathers. It’s not so much that I’m not the No. 1 man in their lives anymore. Heck, most of my daughters’ boyfriends so far have been pretty good guys—most of them, mind you. And if you don’t know which list you’re on, boyfriends out there, that’s intentional. Watch your step. No, it’s the small things I miss—those little girl moments like the times I would take them for a ride up the stairs, either piggyback or on my feet, as bedtime came; those long summer days at the neighborhood pool when they would yell for me to throw them higher into the air for that great splash; the giggles and smiles I’d receive when I’d bring them little toys and trinkets; and the unashamed kisses and hugs I somehow took for granted. One of my sweetest memories of those days is the time I was tucking my youngest in for the night, and she asked me: “Daddy, can I marry you when I grow up?” Gets me every time when I think about that.

Now that they’re teenagers, most shows of affection—and bits of parental advice—are usually met with a long roll of the eyes and a sarcastic “Oh, Dad!” But I know that’s only normal. The species humanus teenageus can be a snarling, confounding breed. My wife and I often sit and ponder when that time will come when they first realize we’re not complete lamebrains and they utter those cherished words: “Mom and Dad, you were right!”

And now that I’ve had time to work through my thoughts, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s OK to miss my little girls. They’re big girls now, and I love them with all of my heart for who they are and for the bright, talented adults they’ll become. One of the things I’m most thankful for is that even though I’ll always miss those days of Barbies and cartoons and forts made of bedsheets—and letting them do makeovers on me in their Two Sisters Salon—I didn’t miss the days as they happened. It wasn’t all roses; all parents know and ruh rohappreciate the great challenge, the tremendous patience, and the utter lack of sleep involved in raising little ones—but I wouldn’t trade those days for anything in the world. Well, on second thought, if I had it all to do over again, I’d skip the fingernail polish. How on earth do you get that out?

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Handing Off the Ball at Midcourt? Seriously?

17 Apr

by Roger White

Among my earliest memories of watching sporting events live and in person are yellowed images of a musty gymnasium with rickety wooden bleachers. You know, an old-world gym, built in the 1930s or ’40s, with the rounded roof, many windows long painted shut, and those ghastly caged halide lights bright enough to cause welder’s burn on your corneas. It was the mid-1960s, and I was a little kid, watching my oldest sister play junior high basketball. I’m not exactly sure how young I was, but I do remember that I was small enough to easily crawl under, in, and around all the tiny crevices in the bleachers to find hidden treasure—loose change, dropped candy, and the occasional dollar bill or two. It was a blast.

Early life lesson: Lollipops stuck to the floor are not good to eat.

What little I recall of the actual games was that, in those days, girls basketball differed radically from boys basketball. Girls’ teams had to divide themselves into frontcourt and backcourt squads, and crossing the midcourt line was prohibited. It was the oddest thing, especially looking back now, to see a girl running full speed on a breakaway only to come to a screeching halt at midcourt to pass the ball off to her teammate. But no one really gave it a second thought then. To paraphrase Mr. Hornsby, that’s just the way it was.

I have to tell you that growing up with two older sisters gave me enough insight to realize the ridiculous premise behind this Victorian-style rule. Conventional wisdom in those days was that the female constitution was much more delicate than that of the male of the species, so what competition our dainty girls were allowed to participate in was softened and slowed for their protection.

Horse patties.

A childhood spent variously trying to keep up with, fend off, outfight, outrace, outbite, outkick, run from, and savagely battle for bathroom rights against two merciless sisters taught me, often painfully, that girls are just as tenacious, spirited, and competitive as boys. Except their nails are longer.

It came as no surprise to me, then, when Billie Jean King beat the chauvinistic socks off of one Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match in 1973. Remember that? It was for $100,000, winner take all. (And one hundred grand was beaucoup money in ’73.) Yes, Riggs was in his 50s, and sure, he hammed up the dominant male role to the hilt, and indeed, King was in her prime, but the action on the court spoke for itself. King blasted Riggs, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, using the crafty old guy’s defensive tactics against him. And if you thought Riggs tanked the match, think again. Not many people are aware that Riggs played another “Battle of the Sexes” match four months before the one against King—and he defeated Margaret Court, one of the top women players of the time, 6-2, 6-1.

Not long after this was when Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova began their decades-long rivalry. As big a fan as I was of guys like Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, I genuinely anticipated watching Chrissy and Martina go at it as much as any men’s match. To my great surprise and delight, it was about this time, in the early 1980s, that I happened upon Navratilova in, of all places, the University of Texas at Arlington gym. She lived in the area at the time and worked out with the UTA women’s basketball team to keep up her stamina. I was a UTA student, and I jogged in and around that old gym a lot. Martina walked by me once to get a drink of water, and there was not an ounce of fat on her body. She looked as if composed of granite. I blurted something about being a huge fan, and she smiled uneasily at me. Another crazed fan, great, I’m sure she was thinking.

Anyway, what got me thinking about how our society has long viewed women’s sports—you know, with that second-class air of inferiority—were two recent developments. A phenomenon named Brittney and my youngest daughter, Jamie. If you were unaware, the Baylor University women’s basketball team went 40-0 this year. Think about that. Forty wins, no losses. No college team—men’s or women’s—has ever done that. And anchoring that amazing team was one Brittney Griner, the six-foot-eight-inch dunking machine from Houston. Did you watch this team play? Lordy, I was more juiced to watch the women’s playoffs than the men’s this year. Incredible stuff. And it wasn’t all Griner, either. When teams figured out how to shut her down (by double- and triple-teaming her), the Bears’ outside shooters, such as Odyssey Sims, nailed them from long range.

And, oh, my daughter Jamie. It has been one of those dad things this year, I suppose, getting to watch my youngest run the half-mile. Sorry, they call it the 800 meters now. I was a trackster (Truman Administration, I believe) long ago, and it thrills me to watch a chip off the old block stride along that track. She asked me to run with her around the neighborhood, and after a couple of blocks of grunting and panting, I instructed Jay to go on ahead of me. Bad knee or something.

Handing off the ball at midcourt, indeed.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Who Wears Short Shorts? Apparently Everybody Now.

8 Sep

by Roger White 

 

So while I’m waiting for the pain meds to kick in, let’s talk about dad radar for a bit, shall we? Mind you, dad radar is generally not nearly as potent or vigilant as mom radar. To compare, mom radar is somewhere on the scale of the National Weather Service’s gigantic Doppler Array systems—you know, those things that look like monster ping pong balls perched atop our nation’s tallest mountain ranges—while dad radar would be likened to the handheld jobs used to clock baseball speed or thereabouts. Dad radar works, but not nearly on the same level as mom radar.

That being said, my little detection gun did sound recently when wifey and the girls came back from their Annual School Clothes Shopping Safari at The Mall. I was anxious enough as it was, watching the smoke rise from the wife’s purse, knowing that where there’s smoke, there’s an exhausted MasterCard white hot from all the day’s friction. The anxiety level only increased as my girls, a sophomore and an eighth-grader-going-on-college, began exhibiting their safari trophies.

Note to dads everywhere who have daughters: (1) a blouse is not a shirt, so don’t call it that; (2) same goes with a skirt—it’s not a dress, it’s a skirt; (3) girl clothes and accessories, although by and large much, much tinier than boy clothes and such, are exponentially more expensive—quantity of cloth and/or plastic used to make a girl thing does not equal price of girl thing; and (4) if you have no idea what it is, just say “very nice.”

That’s not the high anxiety part, however. No, this episode began when the girls modeled their new shorts. And when I say “shorts,” never has the word had a more appropriate meaning. The smidgens of clothing I witnessed having a god-awful time trying to do their job were so minuscule that my radar gun melted before it ever had a chance to make a sound.

“They’re volleyball shorts, dad. Everybody’s wearing them.” That was the explanation I got for all the skin. And here’s the weird part: As I stood there, open-mouthed with my dad radar gun melted all over my shoes, the wife just smiled happily and said she liked the color.

The room started to swirl.

“They’re a little, uh, short, aren’t they?” was the best I could muster.

“I think they’re cute.”

“Well, sure, dear, Bettie Page was cute, too, but…”

“Who’s Bettie Page?”

“Never mind. It’s obvious you were never a teenage boy.”

And there’s the rub. Nobody in that room, except for me, had ever been a teenage boy. And I know how teenage boys think. There are only two things on a teenage boy’s mind, I told wifey later, teenage and girls.

“Oh, they’re all wearing them,” she said. “You’re being way overprotective.”

This from the woman who makes the girls walk together to fetch the mail.

I spent the remainder of the evening arguing with the wife, the debate meandering from fashion and hemlines to morals and health class curriculum back around to clothes and the evolution of the school dress code.

“Well, in my day, the assistant principal measured the length of girls’ dresses and shorts with a ruler,” I huffed. “What do they use today, a toothpick?”

“You’re sounding old again, dear.”

“Well I am old, dammit. Why does everyone insist on showing so much skin these days?”

My whole line of reasoning was immediately sunk, however, when I tuned into the ESPN Classic Channel’s broadcast of the 1975 NBA playoffs. I’d conveniently forgotten how disturbingly tight and skimpy the shorts were then; jeez, Rick Barry was showing enough skin to frighten off Hannibal Lecter. I flashed back to my high school sophomore year and my purple crushed-velvet hip huggers. Man. How did I get any circulation?

Ah, well. Guess I need to get a new dad radar gun.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.