Outside of my twin and I, I never saw a child grow up until I was basically an adult. My parents were done because they had a boy and girl in one shot, my uncle never procreated. Until my aunt had her daughter in 2002, I never had a first cousin. I was sixteen when Tyler was born. By the time she was eighteen months old, I moved to Atlanta and moved back to New York permanently when she was almost ten.
Tyler was my girl. Every time I came home to visit, she would be so happy to see me. I was the one who would get on the floor with her and she’d do push ups with me, carry her around until she was about six, and all of those things the fun uncle would do. She just turned fourteen yesterday. Damn, time flies.
In true “my aunt” fashion, she threw Tyler an extravagant “Funky Fourteen” party. There was decorations, food bars, a photo booth with step-overs, a DJ, and a bunch of teenagers being teenagers. Seeing my original little girl fully being what I feel like was just yesterday with my friends from middle school was both endearing and nostalgic at the same time. Because I lack the experience, I’m just figuring out how to deal and hang with the tween age that she has grown out of with my nephew; there was a little disconnect. However, she’s coming into that age in which we can relate a little better (I was introduced as her sarcastic cousin who says things she doesn’t really get…but that’ll change very soon).
As Tyler introduced her parents to light the first two of her fourteen candles, I began to feel touched. She has a great relationship with her mother and father. My aunt is twelve years older than me; so she still has a very youthful spirit about her. Before my aunt lit the initial candle, they broke out into one of those dances that the kids do these days I all but refuse to know anything about.
Right before her father walked up to light his candle, he and Tyler held hands and danced. With my four year old daughter sitting on my lap, I began to get a glimpse into my future. Reggie, Tyler’s dad, was a single father of two boys when he met my aunt seventeen years ago. I remember my aunt being a mid-to-late-twenty-something dating this guy who was just a rumor that I eventually met. Then he started coming around more and more, to his sons meeting the family, them moving in together, the proposal and how he was there for here when her father passed away four days later, and eventually the blended family they have become. As a single father, I guess what I see in Reggie and my aunt is what I hope happens eventually for Cydney and me.
I had my almost waist-high shadow following me around the whole night. There were many moments in which I looked at my daughter and thought to myself “Before I know it, this little girl who is more than happy to sit on my lap, give me hugs and kisses will one day become Tyler.” She’ll be her own thing with all of that attitude and rebellion that is synonymous with teenage girl…that wonderful seven year period that is a father’s worst nightmare.
I remember my aunt being in high school and saw all of the behind-the-scenes shit teenage girls do watching my sister go through that age in real time. There is no proper terminology for what the latter did than that it “scared the fuck out of me.” Tyler is a good kid with a good head on her shoulders and familial foundation, so I know she’ll be just fine. I know that Cydney will be as well. I think I am mentally preparing myself for the worst and will find myself reflecting when Cyd turns twenty and think to myself “That wasn’t so bad.”
Experience is the greatest and most cruel of teachers because you learn the lesson after. However, a smart person learns by looking at others and applies the knowledge in the midst of it all. It’s good to see these moments and I’m glad to have all of them to be somewhat of a blueprint.