Teriyaki With My Daughter

I accompanied my oldest daughter, Luca, to an open house for students who joined orchestra. She met her instructor and fellow students, but was most excited to see her friend, Taylor. Beginning next Tuesday she will board a bus bound for the middle school where she will learn to play the cello.

Not long ago she would have pulled her chair right up next to mine and sat as close to me as possible. But tonight I was there to take notes and find out when the bus would pick her up. Yes, she reminded me of that as we drove to the school.

Her best friend, who will also play the cello, was there to provide any support she needed. Sometimes I forget that she’s ten years old, not five. She’s making her own friends and forming opinions. She asks me as many questions as I ask her. It’s a two-way street.

I’m thrilled and proud to see her grow into a young woman. But there’s a part of me that yearns for the days when I was the center of her universe. My influence that was once great has been greatly diminished, and there are times when I feel she’d rather hang out with anyone but me.

After taking plenty of notes, we left the school and headed to our favorite teriyaki joint. It’s one of those anonymous holes-in-the-wall where it appears one person is doing the work of four. An older gentleman with limited English skills took our order while filling glasses with ice water and speaking on the phone.

We retreated to a booth to wait for our food.

“What is the best age for a person to get their first cell phone?” Luca asked.

“I don’t know. What do you think?” I replied.

“Maybe a few months before their 11th birthday.”

“Wouldn’t that be right around Christmas for you?”

“Exactly.”

It’s not the growing up part that concerns me. I mean, that’s how life works. It’s the fact that each day my influence on her is less pronounced. Which in many ways, it a good thing because I’m certain my influence hasn’t always been a positive. I hope the good has outweighed the bad because there’s not a lot of time left for major changes.

As we finished our meal, I sat across the table and smiled as she used my iPhone to send text messages. Such moments without the distractions of siblings are rare, and they seldom last more than a few minutes.

A couple of fortune cookies arrived with our check. Luca cracked open her cookie and read her fortune.

“Dad, what does yours say?”

I unfolded my fortune, and read it to myself. Then I folded it back up, and placed it in my wallet.

“It says eighteen is the ideal age for your first cell phone.”

Comments

  1. Ah, the “when can I get a cellphone” conversation – yeah, we’ve had that one pretty often, and getting more frequent as time goes on. Our daughters are 11 and 8, now. We’ve always answered “it’s a matter of need, not want. When you actually need one, you’ll get one right away.” They keep looking for reasons that they actually need a phone, and we keep deflating them … ;-)

    “[…] I’m certain my influence hasn’t always been a positive.”

    Boy, how many times I’ve thought that about myself … my wife and I kind of jokingly say, “As long as the girls need less therapy than we did, I think we did okay.”

    I know folks try to make me feel better by saying things like “hey, at least you’re trying” and “at least you know you have a problem” but man, it doesn’t stop me from asking myself, “why couldn’t I have just been better a better person in the first place?”

    But, then I think: perhaps these are just symptoms of the higher-quality life that we’re so fortunate to have. I mean, in other places, in other parts of the world, parents are literally struggling to feed their children meals every day, or get them medicine to keep them healthy, or clean clothes to wear. And, less extreme than that, there are parents who are strung out on drugs and alcohol, beating and molesting their kids, and other awful things.

    Sometimes, I wonder if I really am just being too hard on myself. Relativistically, I guess I’m doing a great job as a parent. But, my expectations of myself are a lot higher than the kind of bad parenting you read about in the news.

  2. Tanner has been already pushing to get his cell phone – he turns 12 come December. Last night he told a story about how one of his teachers asked the class “How many of you have cell phones?”, and he felt super lonely because everyone but two kids raised their hands, and of course he was one of the two. With our oldest we let her get a phone before she started 7th grade, with the stipulation that her grades had to stay awesome to keep it. For Tanner the grades stipulation is going to be key, and unfortunately the thing that keeps him from getting a phone anytime soon….

  3. Ahh…the good old cell phone question. We’re debating on when to get our third child a phone. She is on the Jr High Cheer squad (in 9th grade), and she ‘needs’ one to keep in touch with the cheer advisor. Of course, her story is she is the only one without a cell phone which makes us the ‘mean’ parents. Our older two got a cell phone entering high school (10th grade). Makes me wonder how we ever made it as kids without all the electronic gadgets and cell phones.

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