“Do we have any groups of two?”
I’m going to pretend that I don’t hear him by staring intently into my phone.
“Is any one riding with only two?”
Stare harder, John.
“If there is anybody in line with only two in their party, you can jump the line and get on this ride right now.”
“We’re only two” she yells.
I don’t want to navigate through these 100 people in line. There are kids dangling from the railings. There are teenagers smacking each other. That dude with the face tattoo is disturbing. I don’t want to interrupt conversations while bumping into these sweaty people. The width of this entry line is already making me claustrophobic.
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I was content slowly making our way to the front of the line for this roller coaster ride. But not her. These thoughts don’t exist anywhere within her. Who is this girl I call daughter?
I would sign a document right here and now if it guaranteed that I could go unnoticed for the remainder of my time on this planet. I think my wife and son would do the same. It’s not that we’re completely anti-social or hardcore introverts, we just prefer to not have the spotlight shone on us at any point.
But my daughter, she’s very different.
It’s not that she craves that spotlight as much as she doesn’t care if that light shines on her from time to time. She knows what she wants and has tunnel vision when it comes to getting it. She wanted to maximize “Dad and Daughter Day” at the amusement park this past weekend and if that means uncomfortably jumping a line, so be it.
And lord, how I love it. I don’t want her to be like me. I want her to grab life by the throat and squeeze every inch of thrill out of it. I don’t want others to dictate her happiness. I want her to always be moving forward.
I need to stay out of her way.
My daughter’s favorite show right now is “Phineas and Ferb”. It’s a Disney Channel cartoon where two brothers spend their summer vacation dreaming up large scale and ridiculous ideas and then actually see them to fruition.
They travel back in time via a time machine and visit the dinosaurs. They create their own beach. They construct a roller coaster in their backyard. Super silly kid stuff. But my daughter views it differently.
I watch her when she watches it. She dreams big right along with the characters but through a realistic lens. She has asked me on more than one occasion if it’s possible to build our own roller coaster. Not in a cute “aw” way but more like “I’m serious here, dad. Why can’t we?”
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I found one of her Google searches just last week that sums it up beautifully: “Most realistic things built by Phineas & Ferb.” It made me cry.
“No” is never accepted as the first answer. She doesn’t settle. She needs to explore for herself first. She just needs to do.
She still has a thread of a belief in Santa Claus because she sees the world in a fantastical way. I so envy that and so want her to maintain her grasp on that world view as she gets older. It isn’t “show me how it’s possible that he can make it to everyone’s home on Christmas Eve," it’s “prove to me why he can’t.”
I’m the complete opposite of her. I am and always have been a super realist; not to mention cynical. It may make for a better writer, but not for a better person.
If you were to ask me about let’s say, a bulging growth on your face, I’d tell you it was no big deal, regardless of the fact that it is a monstrous distraction and oozing into my eye while you’re asking me about it. I know a lot of us would say the same all in the name of not hurting feelings. Admirable, I guess.
My daughter would most likely tell you, “Yeah, it looks really bad.” This isn’t a criticism of her, it’s a compliment. She sees no point in lying to you. Lying isn’t even in her purview. She sees no point in pretending it’s not there. So what, it’s bad, now let’s head to the pool.
She had no problem acknowledging the fun little growth situated perfectly in the middle of my large forehead this past weekend. Nothing mocking, just let’s roll with it, laugh at it, and move on.
While at Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, PA, we rode the log flume 6 times over the course of 24 hours. Each time I felt great relief when we hit the bottom of the final steep drop. Fears of a malfunctioning log could be suppressed again. Disturbing images of falling disappeared as we slowly floated back to the starting point of the ride. It was fun for me but more out of survival than enjoyable adrenaline rush.
As we slowly made our way back to the beginning of the ride for the last time, my daughter turned around and looked at me and said “Enjoy these last moments because technically we’re still on the log flume.” My thoughts had already turned to the long ride home, whether or not I should stop for gas early in the trip and the work I left hanging on Friday.
With one sentence she forced me to push it all aside.
She may only be 11 and maybe I’m projecting too much on her at a young age, but my daughter jumps head first into happy times and soaks in all that gooey goodness. She doesn’t even acknowledge that it may fall through. When disappointment hits, she allows herself to be bitterly disappointed without a need to justify why it will still be OK.
I know it sounds odd, but I’m glad she’s that way. It may take her longer to recover, but I’d rather she truly feel, be it good or bad, than hang in that middle purgatory all of the time. I can vouch that it isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.
This was written by essay was written by John Markowski, who writes about writing, his garden, fatherhood, aging, the Mets, and the mundane in his publication, Mundane Alley. It originally appeared on Medium.com.
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