I took Finn shopping with me this weekend to give Mama some time to work on a big catalog job; one of my favorite things these days is to spend time running errands with my girls, because we get to be out of the house and exploring together. As she and I traversed the aisles of the Giant, avoiding the other holiday shoppers, Never Tear Us Apart by INXS came on over the store radio. Now, this is not the first time we have heard this song together, and I can never resist the temptation to serenade my daughter and make a fool of myself in public if it makes her laugh:
We got some smiles and laughs from the other shoppers as well as a few puzzled looks, and a woman who hurried away from us after snatching her soda off the shelf, but it was worth it.
We also had the good fortune to be invited to a pre-holiday party on Saturday evening, hosted by some new friends, and found it (and them!) to be warm, funny, and engaging. Candles set a cheery mood, Interesting people mingled, tasty foods were assembled, wine and beer flowed freely, and children of all ages ran underfoot up and down the stairs. Finn is getting to the age where she’s beginning to explore and socialize more on her own, and before we even got her coat off she was wandering inside to check out the scene.
This is all new territory for Daddy, because I’m used to chaperoning her relatively closely. At this age I’m not afraid she’ll eat the sofa cushions, but lately she’s been very interested in building towers to get up onto the dining room table and bringing us random items from previously inaccessible locations. When faced with a household where other children her age live, I figured the breakable stuff was already put away, so Mama and I hung back a bit in an unspoken agreement to see how she would handle the situation. Apart from a request for some hors d’oeuvres, she spent a good bit of the evening out of our direct eyesight, which was nice for Mama and I, even though we each admitted to keeping at least one eye peeled for her. And mostly, it went really well. She mingled and played and found things to do with new kids she’d just met. At one point she went upstairs to play with the bigger kids and apparently got very scared by something; luckily Mama was coming up at that exact moment to check on her and Finn came back down with us until she felt a bit safer.
I find myself going back to my internal argument about being a helicopter dad vs. letting her experience things on her own, and peeking in on her as she watched and played with the other kids in the living room filled me with a heady, sickening mixture of love, fear, hope, dread, and bittersweet sadness. She is the most amazing creature on this earth, and I will do absolutely anything for her. I also realize she must try and fail and love and hurt on her own, making sure that I am nearby to pick her up, brush the dust off, dry her tears, and send her back out on her own to try again. The urge to wrap her in my arms and protect her from everything is overwhelming, but I know I’d only do her more harm in the long run by fighting her battles for her, and the knowledge that she’s growing up so fast and gaining independence with every passing day is both a source of pride and an ache in my heart. On the day when she is too big to ride on my shoulders and play with my ears, laughing, as we stroll to the park, I’m going to have to find a nice quiet spot by myself to be alone for a while.