I got this Facebook message from my TLH (Texas Longhorn Horn) freshman:
I’ve officially finished my first day of college and I didn’t get lost once thanks to my map skills that I inherited from @glenguyton (but I did walk into the wrong building one time). Can’t wait to spend the next four years on this beautiful yet really hot campus #UT #UT19 #duren.
Wait! What? My daughter learned something from me during these past 17 years and is giving me credit on social media? I was shocked, elated, proud, and humbled at the same time. All this time I thought that college was the end of this parenting journey and now I find that it is just the beginning.
Raising a daughter has been an interesting experiment. As a dad I have had to learn the delicate dance of raising a strong, independent young woman while being a caring and supportive father. In many ways, my daughter is just like me in regards to personality. We both need to be right, all the time. We both like attention. And we both like to try new things and explore. I must admit that these similarities have caused some tension between us at times. But through the hard times and the conflicts, I learned a valuable lesson about parenting – I have to give my daughter space to grow, develop, and discover.
Although I gave her much leeway, I made it clear that I was always there for her. There were days when she wanted a hug and days when she just wanted to be alone. There were days when she asked for my help and days when she refused any assistance. There were days when I was a genius and days when all a heard was, “Dad, please stop. You don’t understand.”
Sometimes I felt, “Well she no longer needs me,” especially when she took over my positions as household math tutor, cookie baker, and electronics expert. Upon further reflection, I realized that she was actually saying, “Hey Dad! Look what you taught me. I can do it now.” She had been paying attention, and her gift to me was showing that she was strong independent young woman who still has space for her father in her life. Her Facebook post helped put all of it into focus.
While we are happy our daughter is moving into adulthood, there is both a sense of joy and loss in our home. But strangely, I feel closer to my daughter than I ever have. Knowing that she chooses to engage with us though she doesn’t have to makes every text message and social media post even much sweeter. She tells us about her days at college. We hear about her ups and downs. We hear about the new interactions and relationships she is building. Some days I just text her, “Hey.” On really good days I get my own private text and not just the family group text.
While I know we are just at the beginning of the second phase is this daddy experiment, I am proud to see the proof of my love expressed through the wise and thoughtful decisions of my daughter.