The following was printed (The Boise Weekly) on March 27, 2002.
Do Not Show This To My Kid!
It’s been quite a while since I wrote much of anything about my daughter. That’s unusual. From the time I started doing this column, she’s been a steady and dependable source of subject matter. Don’t know what I’d have done without her. Whenever nothing else was clicking—like, during those dry spells when I couldn’t have found a column idea in the Library of Alexandria—I could always count on her. An artisan font of hilarious, zany, mind-tickling kiddy stuff, my girl was, ‘specially back around those great K-thru-G2 years. I tell you, there were times when I thought the best thing I could do as a writer would be to forget everything else and just follow her around, from the playground to the bathroom, from her Christmas programs to her bucket of Barbies, scribbling down everything she said, everything she did and everything that happened to her. Heck, I think I could have gotten a big thick, best-selling book just out of the various ways she used to mispronounce “spaghetti.”
Yessir, she was that cute, smart enough for Harvard and funny, to boot. But hey, I understand if you haven’t been as enthusiastic about my kid as me. I understand if, over the years, you’ve grown weary of sappy stories about Bill’s cute, smart, funny daughter. After all, this parental pride thing runs mostly in families and I understand if you, not being related to my kid in any way, are sick to death of it. I know exactly how you feel, chum. For instance, take that kid of yours you’re always bragging about. We all know how wonderful you think he is and all. But the truth is, the rest of us were surprised he finally learned how to tie his shoes. And just in time for high school, yet!
And as far as him being “cute” … well, yeah … maybe. A miniature-pot-bellied-pig-kind-of-cute, I suppose. If you call that “cute.”
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But anyway, it’s been quite a while since I wrote much of anything about my daughter, and I believe I should tell you why. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, you see, because I feel like I’ve been neglecting her. And I feel guilty about it. She’s been so generous, material-wise, and here I’ve let months and months slip by with barely a mention of the poor girl.
And she knows something’s up. She’s been watching me out of the corner of her eye, confused, hurt, with a pathetic “Daddy, did I do something wrong?” kind of vibe. So it’s high time I told her, isn’t it? No decent father should keep his child hanging just because the truth may sting some.
Here goes. “Honey, the reason I haven’t written much about you lately is because you just aren’t as cute as you used to be. Sorry, but it’s the truth.” (Now remember, when I actually tell her in real life, it won’t come out quite as blunt sounding as it just did. I’ll tone it down some.)
But that about sums it up. She just isn’t cute enough anymore to write a lot of cute little “Guess what my cute little daughter pulled this time!” kind of stories. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like she got ugly or stupid all of the sudden. No, it has nothing to do with her looks or her brains.
It has to do with her growing up. For all practical purposes, she’s a teenager now, and even if she were still cute, she’d deny it—I think. Yes, teenager girls, as near as I can figure out, don’t mind if teenager boys are cute (I suspect that’s how they can go directly from adoring Tickle Me Elmo to adoring the N’Sync guys) but they seem to hate the notion that they, themselves, may be cute. At least, I think that’s what they think
I mean, admittedly, I’m still trying to get a handle on this. One minute, my girl is wagging her finger in my face, screeching something like, “ Don’t talk to me like I’m a baby, Father! I’m not a baby and I’m not your cutsy-utsy, weedle-eedle girl anymore! In just a few more years, I’ll be a professional veterinarian … or maybe a professional business woman … or probably a professional actress … and you still talk to me like I’m your cutsy-utsy, weedle-eedle girl! Well, I’m not! I’M NOT I’M NOT I’M NOT!”
But then, a few seconds later, she’ll be fighting back tears, flapping those long eyelashes of hers like a sad puppy and saying, “Dah-deeeee, I need a hug.”
Gad, I am so confused! It’s like living with a bear, only one minute, she’s a frothing griz and the next, a sleepy panda.
So maybe you understand why I don’t write much about her anymore. I just can’t predict how it’s gonna turn out, and I still have to live here. Get it? It’s easier, and safer, to insult the entire Idaho Legislature or the president of the United States than to pay her a compliment.
Not that I’ll never write about her again. I’ll have to. No doubt about it, sooner or later, I’ll run out of ideas and I’ll have to dig her out again. But she doesn’t need to know about it, right? Let’s just keep it our little secret.
And for those who don’t care if you never hear another word about my daughter … say, how’s that kid of yours doing? And is he still picking his nose as much as he used to?
March 27, 2002