Saturday, April 16, 2011


My littlest girl, Teya, turned sixteen yesterday. My wife and I had a great time invading Elk River High School with a tiara, a birthday sash, and a mylar balloon with a garish "16" on it. We sang to her at the end of her AP Biology class while all her classmates looked on in horror and awe. As we left the room, I overheard another student whisper, "I wish my parents were that cool!"

Tonight a gaggle of girls are gathered around my kitchen table playing games, inhaling pizza, and laughing uproariously. In the background The Doors are singing "Break On Through To The Other Side" and "Hello, I Love You," and the girls are singing along. (I love this retro music trend!)

It's already been a long day and I am catching cold, so it's tempting to be grumpy about the noise level in my house. But somehow I can't bring myself to do it. I just came from officiating at a wedding, and I watched the father of the bride struggle with the emotional load as he gave his daughter away to another man. I'm face to face with the fact tonight that my daughters are almost grown. Each time we do something as a family, a little voice in the back of my head tells me this won't happen too many more times, so I'd better treasure it while I can.

So I'm treasuring it while I can. One tremendous gift to me at this stage in life is that with rare exceptions, my wife and I get along fabulously with our daughters. The hours and days and years invested in building a good relationship with them has payed off so that when Julie and I are not actively setting limits or enforcing consequences, we can be pretty good friends with the girls. I love it.

There are seasons to life. Right now we are in a loud season, a talkative season, a season where I am genuinely excited to hear the details of classes, boys, and teenage angst. I never pictured myself being a chatty father. My own dad was a silent man. The last line of the sermon at my father's funeral was, "Watch and listen, lest we miss the witness of the silent ones in our midst." He could tell a good story when he wanted, but most of the time he was very quiet. So years ago when I looked forward to fatherhood, I never pictured myself in long, drawn out conversations with daughters about the vagaries of teenage friendship or the interpretation of various male winks, nods, grunts, and odd comments. But this art of conversation is a valuable skill if you want access to a daughter's heart. Therefore I have cultivated an interest in many things that have nothing to do with football, hunting, engines, or other traditionally male pursuits.

Yes, it's loud. There's a constant hum of conversation that I doubt happens as much with sons. But this is where I find myself, and more and more I realize that sooner, rather than later, it will be quieter at my house and in my life. There will be more time for Julie and me to talk about our own concerns and read our own books and reminisce about good memories of our once-noisy home. And from time to time the girls will come home and it will be wonderfully, chaotically noisy again and when they go back to their grown-up lives the quiet will come out of the corners again and I imagine us breathing a deep sigh of relief and the gentle grief of contented parents.

It's a season.

Right now it's April and many people I listen to on a daily basis are complaining because they want spring, by which they mean seventy degrees and warm sunshine. Trouble with this line of thinking is, we're having a perfect Minnesota spring. A little snow, a little sun, a few warm days here and there, a lot of rain and wind and overcast skies. But people are wishing for late May here in mid-April. I don't want to make that mistake.

So I'm loving this season.

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