My daughter is a Daddy’s girl. I understand why. I mean, I liked him well enough to let him convince me to marry him, so I am not surprised that she likes him a lot, too.
They are peas in a pod, with lots of shared interests. They play their trumpets together. They watch all that Star Wars stuff that I don’t get. They use ranch dressing for everything from salad to dipping pizza crust.
They talk about and play video games with hard to pronounce names. Their favorite apparel is usually a t-shirt that I would only use to dust my house and an equally grungy pair of shorts. They can nap sitting straight up in broad daylight.
They laugh like hyenas at puns and fart jokes. They both do a pretty good impression of me, albeit not a very flattering one.
Most Daddy’s girls assume Dad is the only one who can solve a problem, and mine is no exception. A stuck trumpet valve? Ask Dad. Expired milk? Check with Dad about the milk’s actual shelf life. Need a toilet plunged? Well, this one is actually one time when I am glad her Dad rushes to the rescue.
Sometimes her assumption that Dad knows it all is a little frustrating. Even though I wash, dry, and fold almost all our household’s laundry, when I asked her to start washing some of her own clothes, she wanted to wait until her dad got home so he could show her how, to which I replied that I would need to be home at the same time to show him where the washer was.
Lately, as she takes multiple practice tests online to obtain her driver’s permit, she will read the question out loud to her dad, despite the fact that I am the only one in the house with a safe driver discount, and I only speed when driving to bakeries or when there is chocolate involved.
I see the television commercials with the moms and daughters who curl each other’s hair, finish each other’s sentences, shop at the open air market for flowers. They smile at each other and hold hands. But I don’t visualize us in those commercials in any lifetime.
I understand that favorite parent status diminishes with each reprimand or in-house fight. My husband often leaves before daylight for work and many days returns after the sun has set. So he misses her messy room or the cereal bowl she left in his recliner.
He often comes in at the end of the hour I have spent cajoling her to proofread the answers to her math problems or to put on something besides another pair of black leggings and Vans to wear out to eat dinner.
I vaguely remember a time during my teen years when I didn’t think too much of my mom either. “It’s just a phase,” friends say. Maybe so.
And I am not totally without wins. After all, I am the only person who can make a grilled cheese just the way she likes it, and I can find the pipe cleaners she needs for her next project in our crowded art room. We have had some fun times getting pedicures or fancy nails together.
And once, when she got a late invitation to a dance, I was the heroine who brought home four dresses from the clearance rack at Gordman’s, all of which fit and all of which I let her keep with little pleading.
I am great at finding the funny socks she likes to wear with her Birk’s, and much to her joy, I am a pushover when it comes to letting the dog sleep with her. But I know I will finish a close second to good old Dad.
Except for… The Day My Daughter Liked ME Best. It started out like any other Saturday, with me banging dishes around in the kitchen, just loud enough to wake her, and yet not personally wake her up, shortly after ten. She stumbled in, grunted something unintelligible and made herself some toast and fruit.
I waited patiently for her to fully drain my hot water tank with her shower and then we ran a couple of errands, took the dog for a walk, watched a cooking show (that she recorded so she could see it again later with her dad…), and wrapped a present for a friend’s baby shower.
She tossed me the empty cardboard tube from the wrapping paper, and I caught it and twirled it. She stopped in her tracks and stared.
“Do that again,” she said.
“Catch something you threw at me like a missile?” I quipped.
“No. That twirly thing,” she said, without rolling her eyes, and I knew intuitively this might be my moment.
I spun the tube, tossed it into the air, narrowly missing the ceiling fan, caught it before it hit the ground and finished with a spin.
“What is this? What are you doing?” she howled.
“Well, it’s sort of like twirling a baton,” I said.
“And you know how to do that?”
“Sure. Watch!” I said, and sprung into a routine worthy of a spot in USC’s marching band. Hot summer afternoons spent tossing a cheap heavy-ended baton in the yard as a ten year old came back to me, and I performed as though auditioning for the Rainbow Girls talent show.
“Oh. My. Gosh. What is happening?” she said, genuinely impressed. “Can you do that to music?”
After a brief pause during which she found my requested number—one Vicki Sue Robinson’s Turn the Beat Around—I resumed displaying my secretly held talent.
I did a little diva-like complaining about the width of the tube and not being able to complete my finger rolls. She ran (like actually moved fast) to grab a light saber from her Disney trip, but when I did my signature shoulder shrug, the end of it popped out. She grabbed electric tape and wrapped it up so that I could continue.
By now, completely out of breath and out of baton twirling shape, I begged for a little reprieve.
“No! You have to show me more,” she said through a genuine smile.
I spun my way through Sousa marches, did my elbow pops, executed a fishtail leg kick and twirled underneath it. She was mesmerized.
Before long—but not before a couple of well-timed toss and cradle catches- I had exhausted my minimal repertoire, and gracefully exited the parade route.
That night I was a little sore, and on my way to soak in a hot tub, I heard her talking to her dad.
“Did you know Mom can twirl a baton? She just whipped out that skill right in front of me today. It was so much fun! We kept picking songs, and she just kept doing tricks.”
She described in great detail all of the things I had told her about being a young girl bonking herself in the head until she could catch the metal tube, practicing all the time in the back yard and even in PE at school. She demo’d a couple of the tricks I showed her for her beloved dad, although clearly not with the level of expertise us long time twirlers display.
When I think about that day, I smile. It was The Day My Daughter Liked ME Best.
Cathy is a retired public school English teacher and Public Information Officer.