It finally happened.
After lurking on the approaching horizon for more than twelve years -- dodging and ducking behind the usual landmarks and obstacles of childhood and adolescence as it lunged closer and closer -- the inevitable reality of maturation smacked me full in the face last month. My daughter has a boyfriend.
We took her home from the hospital seemingly yesterday. Fat pink cheeks, big brown eyes, curly brown hair. All seven pounds and eleven ounces of her barely taking up the center of her car seat, she slept much of the day away in her newly-painted pink room with bunny-centric wallpaper border.
The very next day she started talking. She would point at anything that caught her attention and say either "dog" or "what's that?"
The following day she learned to surf the furniture and had mastered walking by bedtime. Regardless of the milestones, her height never seemed to change. I can remember standing in the front yard looking through the window to see her cherubic face straining to peek out at me over the two-foot-high window sill.
A few days later she started kindergarten and enrolled in Girl Scouts. She learned to play the violin but after a few minutes' consideration switched to the flute. By the end of the week she was getting straight A's in seventh grade science and math, texting her friends throughout the afternoon on her fancy little flip phone, and taking the SAT as part of a Duke University talent search program.
Okay, so it only seems like the last twelve years shot by in the span of one week. The passage of time is annoyingly relative. If recollections of my pre-teen years are accurate, childhood from the perspective of a child seems to last forever. My daughter no doubt finds her adolescent days dragging as she anticipates the awesome changes her future holds in store. I find those same days whizzing by in a blur as I flail around trying to find some way to make it last.
Some of my more vibrant and cherished memories seem like ancient history. Meeting my wife backstage at a community play, our wedding day, seeing the real beauty of her face on the days she gave birth to our children... First days of kindergarten, countless school programs and recitals, and an additional twenty-eight birthdays celebrated since the kids showed up...
Thousands of photographs and miles of video and digital tape may document our lives but how often do we sit down and look through our past? Who has the time these days? When I was a kid we had time to pour over photo albums and discuss friends and relatives of yesteryear. All afternoon I would play with neighboring kids or watch the Mets on Channel 9. These days, our eight-year-old sons have a busier social agenda than I do. Between dance, girl scouts, Beta Club and band, we barely get any quality time at home with our daughter.
A boyfriend? She may be mature enough to handle it but I'm not sure I am.
When our daughter informed my lovely wife and me about the boy at school who asked her to be his girlfriend, a mixture of bemusement and panic welled up within me. When she told us she had agreed to be his girlfriend, I might have smiled and joked about it but inside I registered the end of an era. In that one moment I was graduated, willingly or not, from one stage of parenthood to the next.