Our oldest daughter is 10 years old and in the fifth grade. She plays the violin, is a voracious reader, loves playing with her cats and playing American Girl dolls with her sister.
She’s possibly the kindest and most considerate person I know.
She makes me want to be a better father, a better husband and a better man.
I love her desperately.
I’ll always see her as the little girl in the picture above – I can’t help it.
But that’s all changing during the next several days.
Next week, her entire grade level will begin a week-long health class about puberty, adolescence and sexuality.
Apparently the curriculum developers don’t know that she’s still my little girl, and that I don’t want her to learn about hormones, monthly cycles and peer pressure – please, not just yet.
My heart wants to fight it.
My heart wants to defend her innocence just a little longer because I don’t want her to lose that carefree brightness and inner glow that always darkens with age.
That’s my fear – her loss of innocence and it’s gathering like a cloud in my heart.
She doesn’t see it that way. For her, she wants to be a teenager – she wants to grow up yesterday. I think all of us were the same way, but in hindsight I deeply miss my own blissful days of innocence.
But my mind knows that this has to happen for her, and that it’s the first step of many towards maturity.
She’s not on the journey alone – my wife and I are with her every step of the way. While we can’t shelter her from this inevitable shock wave of information, as her parents we can brace her and shape the blast.
For many months, my wife and I have been talking about the best way to prepare for this.
So before her school has its say on the matter – we’ll have ours.
That’s why my wife booked an overnight for the two of them, a couple hours drive from our home. On the way up and back, they’ll listen to a faith-based CD series titled Preparing for Adolescence, and they’ll have plenty of “girl time” to discuss what’s on each others hearts and minds.
Then a hand off will occur where I’ll have some alone time with my eldest to mark this symbolic rite of passage. She and I will then talk, and I’ll answer any of her questions from a dad’s perspective – hopefully over ice cream.
Then I plan on giving her a simple ring for her to wear as a token of my love for her and a reminder that she’ll always be my little girl.
Even as I write this, I’m beginning to think that what I fear most is not necessarily her loss of innocence as much as my personal loss of my little girl.
She may already have a flawed, yet working knowledge about the “birds and bees” gleaned from back-of-the-school-bus whispers and rumors during recess from classmates with older siblings. That doesn’t matter, she needs to hear it from us.
But I don’t have to like it.
I know it’s still several years before she’s in high school, dating, getting a driver’s license, landing her first job, attending college or getting married with a family of her own.
I get that.
Still, my heart is aching because during the next week she’ll be taking baby steps toward adulthood that are giant leaps away from the little girl I’ll always carry in my heart.