This morning, as I drove my daughter to daycare, we both barked like dogs. We barked at the houses as we passed, and then we barked at the cars in front of us at the red light. We barked so much that they ran away. We caught them at the next light, and we both barked again. And again they ran.
I took her out of the car seat. I held her in my arms and tried to kiss her. She turned hard and caught my lips in her hand. “No Daddy!” It was part laugh, part shout.
I said, “Look over there…” Over there was a black Ford Taurus, and then nothing but thick Georgia woods. But she looked, and when she did I planted one on her cheek. Which she immediately wiped off with her entire forearm. This is us right now. She’s my little yellow homie. I’m Siilly Daaddy.
You know how this ends. In eye rolls and sucked teeth. One day she won’t think my jokes are funny anymore. One day she won’t say, “Silly Daaaaddy!!!!” and when I say, “Silly UUUUUma!” she’ll smirk and sulk and squirm.
So I’ll write this now and absolutely forbid her to read it. I’ll tell that my blog chronicles my drug usage and various criminal deeds. I’ll trick her, just like I did this morning when I shouted, “Look over there!” This is what she’ll find. My open letter to Little Yellow Homie, from beyond the generation gap.
First off, I love you. You’re probably not talking to me right now. I love you anyway. Grounded or on the dean’s list, I love you. And I’m proud of you. I don’t know what I’m proud of, but as I write this I can see the seeds of greatness, even though you’re only three and I need glasses.
And I hate your boyfriend. He’s not good enough for you. You can expect this to be an ongoing condition, but that makes it no less true.
Now, here’s the thing. I want you to be good at saying “no.” You were great at it when you were little, but girls forget. You get to elementary school and everybody loves it when you’re cute and compassionate; all pink bows and glitter. And when you say no, they get the stink face.
Well, after 12 or so years of school, I’m guessing you need to work on your “no” muscles. I want you to develop a finely honed sense of “no.” Do “No” kata. Master No-Jutsu.
There is a place down in your stomach where the truth lives. It’s a very small, shy little thing right now. You need to be quiet just to hear it. But once you know what it sounds like, it will be your best friend. That and the word, “No.”
Try it. See how it feels. Learn how to say it quietly, with a straight face and a little edge in your eyes. See how it feels to throw it like a baseball, and say it with a laugh. Just as long as you say it with your heart, and backbone.
Know also that there are people who are scared to death by your truth. They will shout and jump up and down, just so you can’t hear yourself think. They will do it as they smile. They will distract you with liqueur and smooth talk, just so you can’t hear that little voice down in your gut. Those people aren’t your friends. Walk away.
I can’t tell you when to say no. You wouldn’t listen to me anyway. But I want you to use it liberally and without a shred of shame. And if you ever have any doubts, just be quiet, and listen to the truth in your belly.
Or you can call me, and I’ll come running with my boots on, and I’ll kick in doors and knock down cinderblock walls. Just ask.
One day my little girl will be emo. Every word that I say to her will feel like needles.
Then she’ll be cool, with pill bug armor. My words will slip off of her. She’ll glide by me and I will wonder if I still exist.
Then she will figure it all out. It’s called the Unified Theory of the Twenties. The advice I give her will be quaint, because she is wise in the ways of the world, and my knowledge is from the before time. And she’ll say okay. And then she will go on and do whatever it was that she was going to do. And guys like Chris Brown will seem real cool, and I’ll get ulcers and gnash my teeth in my sleep.
I hope she’ll read this. And when she does, I want her to say, “Oh, I already knew that.” Then I’ll know I’ve done my job.
I’ve written about fatherhood before. Here, I talked about how cool it is. And here I chronicled some of the things our family had to do to find decent schools. And this right here is all about my wife. Just cause I like talking about her.