Not long after my daughter’s sixteenth birthday, there was a knock at my front door.
I pulled myself up off the couch. As I walked to the entryway, I expected to be greeted by a salesperson, politician or missionary. Instead, as I opened the door, the vision of a young muscular man was presented to me.
Decked out in a tight black t-shirt, tattoo, tiny hoop earrings and a backwards baseball cap, he spoke in a firm low voice.
“Uh. Is Olivia here?”
I leaned slowly back toward the living room, never taking my eyes off this guy standing on my doorstep. “Ollie,” I yelled, “There’s a guy here to see you.”
Like someone caught in a Star Trek transporter, my daughter materialized next to me. She couldn’t possibly have moved from her room to the front door that quickly.
Olivia grinned at me, eyes sparkling with excitement. “Bye Dad! We’re going to the movies!”
“Uh, okay.” My brain stuttered a couple of times as it tried to keep up with the situation. “Do you need a ride?”
“No, that’s okay. We’re going to take Dante’s car.”
Good God, he has more facial hair than I do. My brain wasn’t really keeping up. “Well, okay. Have a good time.”
Dante, if that was his real name, gave me a half wave as Olivia skipped out to the driveway. I blinked a couple of times, closing the door as the two teens hopped into a tricked-out blue hatchback. My brain finally caught up.
My daughter was dating.
From a logical standpoint, I knew this already. My ex-wife had mentioned that Olivia had been seeing someone for a couple of weeks and that she had already met him and given her consent. If Olivia’s mom was okay with it, then I was okay with it. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that my former high-school self, sporting long-hair, black boots and a beat-up old army jacket had been frightening parents by picking up their daughters in my dad’s truck. I remember being on the other side of the door, and I remember telling myself that I would never be like those parents.
But I am.
It’s not that I don’t trust my kids. It’s not that I don’t trust their friends. I’m a cool parent (I think), and I’m comfortable that my daughter can make good decisions about the type of people that she hangs out with. That wasn’t it. What my brain was struggling to keep up with was the fact that my daughter, my little tiny baby daughter, was old enough to be dating.
I remember joyful crying when she was born, her first day of kindergarten, and taking her on field trips to the local apple orchard. I remember building her a dollhouse, cuddling on the couch watching TV and setting off the smoke detector while making pancakes together. I remember soothing tears as I patched up boo boos, and laughing as we jumped in puddles in the rain.
But now, she was almost an adult. My little girl wasn’t so little any more.
In the time since, I’ve grown accustomed to the idea of my daughter becoming an adult. We’ve been looking at colleges, had job interviews, and gotten used to the idea that some of her friends have to shave more often than I do. I admit, though, that I do still get a little misty-eyed sometimes when she hops in someone’s car. While I miss my little girl, I’m proud of the person my daughter had become.