Tag Archives: growing up

Daddy, Do You Believe In Santa?

9 Dec

do you believe

letter Last night during dinner our family snuggled down in the big comfy couches of our living room and watched “The Polar Express”. Like so many holiday stories, the major theme as revealed at the end of the story is “belief for belief’s sake”. In the epilogue we learn that as the boy’s friends grow up, one by one they lose the ability to hear the sleigh bell as they each eventually stop believing in Santa. But the little boy, he never stops believing. As the credits roll (and “The Polar Express” is no exception in the pantheon of Christmas movies) we are left with the notion that holding on to belief for belief’s sake is a virtue, and that those who have lost it are in some way diminished.

polarexpress2

Teeth brushed, pajamas on, lights out, my 7 year old daughter crawled into her bed, fantastical images of the movie still swirling around in her head, and I laid down next to her for a little snuggle-time. A few minutes pass with the sweet, soft breathing of a child on her way to sleep. After a time she slowly rolled over and whispered quietly to me, “Daddy, do you believe in Santa?”

***

Now it should be said that this girl is a born skeptic. She is nobody’s fool, and she will be the last person bamboozled when the snake-oil salesman comes to town. When we watch “The Wizard of Oz” she sees the little guy behind the curtain more than the billowing, blustering fireball on the throne. This past spring, in a similar bedtime situation, she rolled over and confessed apologetically to my wife “Mommy, I’m sorry but I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny isn’t scientific and I just can’t believe in something that isn’t scientific.” But that said, I think everyone can appreciate how, compared to believing in the Easter Bunny, Santa is in a completely different league.

This being the holiday season, there are faith-centered images and messages everywhere. Children come to school talking about angels and miracles and the little baby Jesus. Relatives openly express their beliefs, different though they may be from your own, at family meals and on holiday cards in your mailbox. Kids are inundated by the notion of “belief” this time of year, and my kids are only just now old enough to listen to the things people say, think about those things to themselves, and then form their own opinions. What follows can be pretty profound.

SupermanRedemptionTPJust this Friday we had Christmas music playing in the house when out of nowhere, my daughter comes up to me and says, “Daddy, why do they say ‘god our heavenly father’? That doesn’t make any sense. God isn’t my father. You’re my father.” Then later in the weekend I overheard a very amusing discussion between my kids and their older cousins about whether or not Jesus actually had super powers. If nothing else these are moments to teach our children that everyone believes something different, and someone else’s beliefs are just as important to them as yours are to you. You have to respect that fact when you’re talking with other people.

That notion is applicable to Santa as much as it is to anything else.

I love that my daughter is a thinker. I’m proud of that fact and I want to celebrate it – to encourage it. But if belief for belief’s sake is the providence of children, then logic and reason are the hallmark of adulthood, and there is no clearer indication that my daughter is growing up more than the fact that she is thinking for herself.

So I found myself at that very uncomfortable crossroad. I’m proud of my daughter’s budding intellectualism and I want to encourage her to let it grow, but I also want her to stay my little girl for as long as humanly possible. I want her to think for herself, but I don’t want her to lose the magical naiveté of childhood belief any sooner than she has to. Meanwhile lying there next to me, my daughter’s heart really wanted to believe in Santa, even if her mind was telling her something else entirely.

My head and my heart are pulling me in two different directions, just as hers are.

So she looked to me, asking for permission… permission to let either her heart or her mind win out over the other. In so doing she was asking me to choose between encouraging her intellectual integrity and selling her snake oil. In that moment I had to decide.

Do I help her grow up, or hold desperately on to her fleeting childhood for one last moment?

***

“Daddy, do you believe in Santa?”

I laid there quietly for a moment not answering, afraid that my silence was enough of an answer for her.

On her bedroom floor against the wall was a little musical instrument her baby brother had toddled in and left earlier in the day – a Velcro wrist-strap with sleigh bells on it. Without answering I rose up from our snuggles, quietly made my way across her room, picked up the sleigh bells and brought them back to her bedside. Kneeling down I kissed her on the forehead and said, “Can you still hear the bells?”

“Yes,” she answered.

“So can I.”

That was enough for her.

Polar Express Bell

-Dork Dad

Surfer Girl

2 Jul

letter every once in a while when we were kids, my dad used to crank up his old man music and do his own version of the DorkDaddy thing. Usually it was either folk music from the Kingston Trio, or The Beach Boys – turned up loud enough to make the dog leave the room. I do the same thing to my kids today, only these days the “old man music” is Def Leppard and Bon Jovi.

30 years ago when the Beach Boys album was pumpin’ and the dog was hiding under the bed, “Surfer Girl” would come on and my dad would swoop up one (or both) of my little sisters. He’d put them on his toes and dance with them in his arms, singing the lyrics (falsetto and all) as if the song was written just for them.

Ever since she was in Jr. High, my baby sister always maintained that whenever she got married and it came time for the father/daughter dance, it was going to be to “Surfer Girl”. I don’t know that my father ever heard of her plan – he might have. But the plan might also have been one of those conversations between siblings that we all remembered and just never brought up again.

In any case, that day finally came this weekend. My baby sister got married. Episode IV got to be the flower girl and Episode V got to be the (Lord of the) ring bearer(s). Episode VI was still too little for an official part in the ceremony, but he was listed in the program anyway as “Cutie-patootie” and got to walk his Booboo down the aisle along with his equally adorable cousin. As it was he managed to steal his share of thunder when he finally decided he was finished with being a crawler and wanted to be a walker – at the rehearsal dinner – around a pool!

The Lord of the Ring Bearers and Cutie Patootie

The Lord of the Ring Bearers and Cutie Patootie

The ceremony went off without a hitch – perfect weather, no major SNAFU’s. The party moved on to the reception where there could be found all the typical wedding traditions: speeches from the Best Man and Matron of Honor, cake cutting, toasts, yadda, yadda…

The star of the wedding, and the bride.

The star of the wedding, and the bride.

When most of the guests were done eating, it was time to dance. As expected, the bride and groom got the first dance to the song of their choosing, with all the requisite “awww”s and camera-phone shots from the guests you would expect. Dance/smooch/hug, dance/smooch/hug. Typical wedding fare. The dance ended to the applause of the guests.

And then it happened…

That baritone scale progression, followed by the lilting falsetto melody – so familiar it’s practically written into my family’s DNA, “Surfer Girl” started up as the DJ announced that it was time for the father/daughter dance. My dad lost it. My sister lost it. All the guests in the room lost it. And that one moment that my sister had been planning since Jr. High finally came true. She was dancing with her daddy to the perfect song after the perfect day.

Father/daughter dance.

Father/daughter dance.

***

It is a strange quirk of life that I tend to look at these things through the lens of fatherhood these days, rather than as a brother, or a husband, or even just plain old me. The last time I watched my father in a father/daughter dance at my sister’s wedding, I didn’t have a daughter myself. Things are different now. This weekend I didn’t see my baby sister up there dancing with her daddy, I saw a father having his last dance with his last child, his youngest daughter, his little baby (surfer) girl. I saw that awful, inevitable, inescapable moment where a father has to finally admit that although she may have been a grownup for years and years, his little girl is no longer his. In moments like those, your mind starts to wander.

I have a daughter.

I have a daughter I love so much it hurts. I have a daughter I love so much, sometimes I lose it just looking at her pictures on my screensaver. I have a daughter who’s growing up the way daughters do. At every major life event I see the girl going off to the first day of kindergarten, or the little girl riding her bike for the first time, or the little girl who mastered reading in a week, or the flower girl at my sister’s wedding… but I also see that little baby, only seconds old, that I held in my hands. I walked her to school on her first day of kindergarten. I ran behind the bike, steadying it as she found her balance. I helped her sound out the hard words. I painted her fingers and toes to match her dress for the wedding…

nails ala DorkDaddy

nails ala DorkDaddy

Sometimes all I can see is that little, newborn baby daughter.

Someday that daughter may want to get married.

Someday she may have a wedding, with a dress and a flower girl and a reception and everything.

At that reception there will very likely be dancing.

Before the dancing there will likely be a father/daughter dance.

She will walk up to me, after dancing with her husband, and take my hand to lead me to the dance floor.

What song will she pick?

Of course I know what song she’ll pick. We have a song. It’s our song. We will dance to our song and I will have to admit to myself that she is no longer mine, and I will totally lose it.

***

I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re thinking “Holy crap, man. Your daughter is seven. You’ve got DECADES before you have to worry about that sort of thing. Get a grip.”

You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right. But this is what it means to love a little person so much you’d swear your heart will explode. This is what it means to look down in silence at your sleeping baby, filled with panic at how fast it’s all gone by and with terror at what is to come. This is what it means to be the father of a daughter.

Game. Set. Match. FML

Game. Set. Match. FML

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back into the office and give myself oxygen for the next 23 years.

-Dork Dad

surfer girl

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