Ladies and Gentlemen, another Fatherhood Milestone has been achieved by yours truly. Golf claps, please. I was about to write “it finally happened today” but that gives the impression that I’ve been waiting awhile for this milestone to pass. The true is I wasn’t expecting this milestone to be met for quite some time yet; years even. I mean, come on, my daughter is only seven. Seven! But alas, it has happened. I have embarrassed my daughter by expressing affection in front of her friends. In fact, as if to emphasize my prowess in achieving this milestone, I’m obliged to admit I managed to do so without even being present!
My daughter’s Grade 1 class has two Parakeets as classroom pets. Each weekend a different kid is offered the opportunity of bringing these birds home (as if a parent has a fair chance at saying no). This past weekend was our third adventure with these damned lovely birds. Both my kids are thrilled when this happens a no talk about my wanting to fry the birds up for supper will dissuade them from wanting them to come to our house for a weekend. If our cat had not died last year we’d have either a very good excuse for not getting the birds or a very cool show when the birds arrived at the house!
We do, however, walk to school and the bird cage and supplies are a bit too awkward to carry for even the short distance to the house. Even if the weather is co-operating, which is rare, it’s just easier to drive the SUV to the school and shuttle the birds that way. Besides, Parakeets aren’t exactly from Canadian climes so they’re a touch finicky about being out in the cold. And so, typically, I return the birds to school later Monday morning before I pick up my son from preschool.
This Monday was no different except that when I arrived at the classroom the lights were out and everyone was missing. I assumed they must be at gym or the library so I simply put the birds on their table along with their supplies and headed for the door. As I was leaving I had a brainstorm. I’d leave my daughter a message scrawled on the whiteboard at the front of the class. I honestly thought it was a sweet gesture; something that she would appreciate, something that would make the other kids a wee bit jealous of my daughter’s cool dad, and finally, something that would induce just the slightest flutter in the heart of her teacher. So I found a couple markers and wrote “Bonjour [daughter’s name]! Je T’aime!” and drew a big heart beside it. Perfect! Awesome dad, here we go!
That afternoon when my son and I picked up my daughter from school she made no mention of my message. This was a little disappointing since I was expecting a big running hug and gushing thanks for my proclamation of love. We went about our usual after school routine until I finally lost patience with waiting (about 20 minutes) and asked her if she saw my message. Her brow furrowed as she said, “Yes! I erased it.”
Uh oh. That’s not the response I was expecting. I then asked if she liked it or if anyone saw it and the answer was a curt “No! I erased it before anyone saw.”
Hmmm. This is odd. She seems a touch perturbed by what I’ve done; mortified, even. Oh dear god, I embarrassed her! My sweet little girl is embarrassed because I told her I loved her in front of all her friends. Imagine if I’d done this in person? Maybe added a little kiss. I’d have all but set her on a path to a career in exotic dancing! I felt horrible. Well, not so horrible that I couldn’t laugh at it a bit (the embarrassment part not the stripper part), but pretty horrible.
At supper I brought it up again, this time with mom present, and again my daughter made it abundantly clear that she was less than amused with my note. She wouldn’t even tell her mother what I’d written. Too icky, I guess. Eventually, after some gentle prodding by mama, she at least enlightened us as to the problem with what I’d done. I say “I love you” when I drop her off, when I pick her up (I get a big hug too) and at bedtime. That, apparently, is plenty! There is no need for any more. Fair enough, but my instincts, albeit slow on the uptake, tell me the real problem was doing it right there in the classroom with all her friends potentially seeing it. Not cool. I should have known better. Hell, I still cringe when my dad tries to kiss me at the airport upon arrival or departure. And that’s just in front of strangers. But like I said, I didn’t think my angel would be at this stage by SEVEN! Ugh.
Aha! And now the truth comes out. When I took my daughter to school the next morning a few of her friends came up to me and told me that they saw my message yesterday. They said the whole class was trying to stop my daughter from erasing it. So, not only was she embarrassed by my message but she was so embarrassed that she lied about the entire episode!
Double aha! And now even more truth comes out. That same day when we picked up my daughter from school her teacher came up to me and said the whole class saw the message I left her. They all thought it was sweet and really tried to stop her from erasing it. There was even a twinkle in the teacher’s eye as she recounted the events of the previous day to me no doubt attributable to the slight flutter in her heart.
As Meatloaf said, two out of three ain’t bad. My daughter didn’t appreciate my message but her classmates were a bit jealous and the teacher was a bit fluttery. Normally I’d call that a success but somehow I still feel sad; sad that I embarrassed my daughter and sad that she doesn’t want such public displays of affection anymore.
There’s something so awesome, so primal, about hugs, kisses, and cuddles of your own children when they’re young. They can warm a heart as cold and cynical as mine. You just want them to last forever. My son is especially cuddly and kissy which I enjoy and my wife adores. My daughter has always been a less keen to cuddle and she’s refused lip kissing seemingly forever (she kisses me on the top of my head instead). But even she has never been bothered by expressions of love no matter the situation or location, public or private, until now. I guess this is one of those milestones I should celebrate by telling myself “they grow up so fast” before obliterating a tub of fudge crackle ice cream.