When my daughter was just a baby learning to crawl, I used to sit in the corner chair of our living room and let her drag herself around the floor while I worked on stuff. One day as she was meandering around my chair, she wound up behind me. The chair had some rocking potential and being the ever-astute dad, I did not want to pinch her little fingers if she happened to put herself in that position. So, as I delicately stood up taking great pains to not move the chair just in case her fingers were in a risky spot, I noticed her safely tucked in the corner chewing on something. Well, as everyone knows, babies put things they should not into their mouths.
Upon safely standing up, I dug her out from beneath the chair and began my exploration into what she could be chewing on. She battled me for control of her jaw as I tried to take a peek. After prying her mouth open, I may have shrieked. I certainly winced and shook and I would very much like a picture of my face at that moment. Her mouth was full of dead bees.
Recovering quickly from my shock, I started digging out the shredded bees from her tiny mouth. Little crunchy yellow and black pieces fell to the carpet and the wings, lots of them, floated from my finger as I tried to end this horror. Eventually, I completed this awful job, but the horror remains if only in my memories.
Last week my little bee-chewing daughter hit double-digits. She turned 10. I was conflicted between celebrating and lamenting this little milestone. I don’t want her getting older, but I am obligated to fake joy about this happening anyway. And so I did, enthusiastically yet reluctantly.
My daughter has grown into a bright, curious, kind, headstrong, thoughtful and beautiful creature. She makes me proud and drives me crazy every single day. She baffles, astounds and confounds me. She is a lovely, messy pest of a soul and I wouldn’t have her any other way. To me, she is perfect.
Last night, while performing our nightly bedtime ritual of me telling her to get ready, followed by her stalling and yelling, something strange happened: While waiting in her room for her to finish brushing her teeth, I laid down on her bed. As she walked in the room, she first glared at me and then her face changed and she crawled over me and rested her head on my chest as she pulled her blanket up.
I turned on her music and we just snuggled. It has been a long time since my daughter has cuddled with me without pinching, poking, jabbing or biting me. It occurred to me, in this soft moment, that she is still my little girl.
As the days and years pass, my daughter stretches much closer to becoming everything else except my baby girl. With her fresh-smelling hair in my face and head on my shoulder, it struck me that she still needs to be my baby girl sometimes. And as she takes her sometimes perilous journey toward adulthood, she will always need me to just be “daddy”.
Through the running, growing and learning, it is easy to overlook these things. With a new sense of my place in her life, I have found some comfort. She can grow up all she wants. It doesn’t matter. She will always need me as “daddy”. And she will always be my baby girl with or without a crunchy mouthful of bees…
[EDITOR'S NOTE:"Feel Good Friday" is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who just published his first book called "A Feel Good Life" (buy it on Amazon here). Dave also extols to all neighbors: "Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!" Also, you can "friend" Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]