At the celebratory brunch for her graduation, Cydney walked up to each member of her family, hugged them, and graciously said “Thank you for coming.” No one told her to do this; she felt compelled to show her gratitude on her own. The after party for Cydney’s big day consisted of her crying on my lap due to an earache.
Cydney and I stopped at the local drug store to get some children’s Motrin. Headed back to the car and holding her hand, an older man looked at us and smiled. He said “I remember those days. These are the best years…enjoy them.”
I acknowledged the sentiment and reciprocated his grin. “She just graduated from Pre-K today,” I replied. The man looked at me and said “I remember that like it’s yesterday. My daughter is thirty years old.” The man couldn’t help but smile even more. His body language suggested that he saw himself twenty-five years ago and reminisced fondly about that time.
There will be a day in which my little girl isn’t going to want to hold my hand everywhere we go. While I am all but ready for this day, eventually Cydney will not want to sleep in the bed with me. Almost every problem in her life can be solved with a positive word or affectionate gesture from daddy. To her, I’m Superman.
In an attempt to understand the world as Cydney sees it, I find myself looking into the reflection of her irises. There is something about me that she associates as a positive stimulus. With limited life experience, all my five year-old knows how to do is express how she is feeling in the moment. My adult life has forced me to mature at a very accelerated rate; and I’m still affected. While I see myself as someone who is constantly battling a jaded cynic, all this little girl sees is a man that can do no wrong.
I know exactly how my daughter feels. I remember being much smaller than my parents. I literally looked up to them and their gestures of love seemed larger than life. There is a memory that flashes in my mind of being about three or four years old, and my father carrying me on his shoulders after a concert he was performing at. It’s a moment I often recall when placing my daughter on my broad trapezius muscles.
These are the best years; they’re pleasing to a parent’s ego. To someone on the planet, we are the most amazing person. There is a human being who doesn’t see all of the flaws the we constantly harp on. Without reason, second-guessing, or condition, we are the light in the life of this miniature person that physically and behaviorally resemble us.
There will be a brief period in which Cydney will figure out that I’m not superman. I remember thinking that my father and because of Moonwalker, Michael Jackson, were the two people on earth that actually knew magic; and my mother was just perfect. One day, my that light in my daughter’s eye will dim like I once did upon realizing that mom and dad are mere mortals. She will be disappointed in feeling like her childhood was a facade.
That will change when Cydney becomes a mother. I have learned to appreciate my mother and father because I can relate. Behind those smiles were moments of feeling beyond overwhelmed, disappointment, broken hearts, and days they probably were unsure how they would be able to pay bills.
A few days ago, my father sent me a series of text messages. He told me “You are Superman. You single-handedly, with only limited parental assistance rescued Cydney. In her book, you are the best father possible. That’s awesome. I get to live on through you and her. That’s the role of dad. Superman.” This is why I look into my daughter’s eyes…because I don’t see it sometimes. Yet, I know exactly how she feels. In that moment, there was nothing more rewarding than being called Superman by the man I still see as Superman.
I am almost certain that this man in a CVS parking is much happier as the father to a thirty year old. However, the only way to explain to someone with much less life experience is to meet them where they’re at: tell them to enjoy right now because it doesn’t last forever.