Getting ready for a special birthday. Accepting that my little girl isn’t little any more.

September 10, 2013

When she arrived in this world, it was with a quiet cry. Nothing like the ear-splitting scream her big sister let out a few years earlier.

It was like she didn’t want a fuss. No need to be the centre of attention.

In the early years, she was happy to go with the flow. She would follow her sister around the house. And the yard. They were inseparable.

It didn’t take long for her own personality to come through. There was a determination about everything she did. She would get frustrated easily. Still does.

Her kindergarten teacher told us what a delight she was to teach. But there would be tears, if she didn’t get things just right.

As she got older, we were able to see so many beautiful traits develop. She adores family. She can fight like a warrior with her sister. But no siblings are closer.

No-one loves cousins more. She would get excited whenever there would be a visit. Still does.

She drove us nuts to get a pet. Make that pets. Dog. Cat. Guinea pigs. She has such a caring heart.

When she laughs, you have to laugh with her. She runs out of breath. Will fall down from a fit of the giggles.

She’s ticklish too. One touch and she goes into a frenzy. Dads get great amusement from such things.

She loves nothing more than getting everyone together to watch a movie. Expect to cop a blast if you try to leave the room. Unless you’re making her more popcorn.

She sings constantly. I wish the world could hear her like I do. The voice of an angel. But for our ears only. She won’t perform. I still hope that will change.

Rarely does a minute go by when she’s not doing some sort of dance move. In the kitchen. In the lift. Around the pool. Like her sister, she has a gift when it comes to grooving.

Of late, there have been difficult days. Changes at home. Tough times at school. But she is loved, so very much, by all those in her life.

There are many photos of her that I cherish. One is at about age 3, at work on a tiny ironing board. So incredibly cute. But with that determination on show.

Another is with her sister, a few years later. They are poking their tongues out at the camera, with big smiles. It hangs at my door, so I can giggle at the cheekiness of it all each morning.

Perhaps my favourite, is one of her asleep as a toddler. She is on my chest, and I’m sleeping too. She is safe and secure, with my arm around her. Never wanting to let her go.

It’s what Dads do. We want to protect our daughters forever. Even if they’re not asleep on our chests anymore.

Tomorrow, this gorgeous girl, is little no more. My daughter becomes a teenager.

She makes me proud, every day. She’s taught me so much. About love, and caring. And family.

I count my blessings, to have two daughters, who are so beautiful in every way. What a lucky man.

As of tomorrow, Daughter Two becomes Teenager Too. Happy birthday Hannah.

Stalking with a smile. The day the girls finally got to meet Taylor Swift.

March 13, 2012

It had been two years in the making. Planned with military precision. Operation Meet Music Superstar.

From Brisbane to Los Angeles to Nashville and back to Brisbane.

The Teenager was unwavering in her confidence. She was going to meet Taylor Swift.

For those who don’t have daughters, Ms Swift is the biggest thing going in country/pop music. Young, and sweet, and incredibly talented. With 11-million Twitter followers. That’s 11-million more than me, give or take a few hundred.

She sings songs from the heart. About boys, and bullies, and mum and dad. Positive messages, from a home town girl in a flowing dress.

We’ve been to see her once before. You may remember me telling you about it. Dads were lined up on chairs outside, plotting secret routes to escape the midnight madness of the concert car park.

I struggled that night. The girls had a ball. But, like the great majority of those who attended, they didn’t get to meet her.

The next day, the plan was hatched. The Teenager would write letters, and cards, and tweets, to convince one of the world’s biggest stars that they should get together. Steely confidence with a pink flouro pen.

Weeks turned to months. No reply.

She was sure that would change when we set foot in the USA. Our dream family holiday. Designed, in her mind, to meet a pop star.

And it nearly did, in our first week there. Incredibly, the girls spotted her in a Los Angeles hotel. Their first day of star-stalking looked like paying off. There she was, lunching with a friend at a swish hotel.

But it wasn’t easy. They were a few tables away. Security was hovering. And deep down, the girls knew that it would be wrong to disturb her in such a private moment. So, they didn’t. She left soon after. Golden opportunity lost.

That night, back at our hotel, The Teenager was distraught. No photo. No autograph. And no meeting.

Even after such disappointment, she refused to give up. We agreed that there’d be another chance. Only one of us truly believed.

A few weeks later, I found myself standing outside an impressive apartment building in Nashville. The memory is clear, because I’d lost all feeling in fingers and toes. An icy Tennessee wind will do that to you.

The Teenager had found Taylor Swift’s address. Here we were, delivering a carefully worded card, a necklace, and a fluffy toy lobster. And before you ask, I have no idea why she chose a lobster.

The Treasurer accompanied her into the lobby, while Daughter Two and I considered setting fire to cars to get warm.

It turned out that the security guard on duty took his job very seriously. So seriously, that he refused to accept the assembled gifts from a young Australian girl. What a guy. But The Teenager wasn’t done.

She directed our taxi to the nearest post office, and posted her goodies. With a note, advising Taylor where we were staying. We didn’t hear from her.

Others might have ended their mission there. But not The Teenager. There was one more chance.

And that brings us to a special night in Brisbane last week. The Taylor Swift concert.

The girls did the usual stalking activity that day. Checked the hotel. Arrived at the concert early, to stake out the back entrance. Nothing.

A select few hard-core fans received passes to get to the front of the crowd. The Teenager missed out, again. And at that minute, watching her face, I thought the dream might finally be over.

I told her to enjoy the concert, like everyone else. She smiled, and said she would. And that she’d get as close as she could to Taylor, just in case. God love her.

As the concert progressed, she was lost in her admiration of the singer. As well as the screaming and jumping. She didn’t notice Taylor’s minders working the room.

They were looking for fans with something different, to meet the star after her concert. Qualities that set them apart from the rest. Like a girl who spent part of her family holiday standing in the freezing cold, delivering gifts for the artist she adored.

After all her efforts, it was her good-natured perseverance in Nashville that did the trick. They were moved by her passion. And thankful that she hadn’t been a pest that day in LA.

So it was that The Teenager, Daughter Two and The Treasurer met Taylor Swift. They laughed, and chatted, and had a photo taken. The dream came true.

The Teenager was right all along. She refused to accept that she wouldn’t meet Taylor Swift. Even if no-one else had faith.

Good things happen to good people. I’m so happy for her. And there’s a lesson here. Never underestimate the power of a fluffy toy lobster.

Helpful tips for Dads when a teenager leaves home. Even if it’s to go shopping.

July 19, 2011

This day had been coming. Marked in Dad’s Diary, with all other painful looming milestones. The ‘Shopping with Friends Alone’ day.

It sounded innocent enough. A request had been made for her to spend a day roaming the city streets. No parents required.

A school buddy wanted help buying shoes to wear at a wedding. They had to be just right. The Teenager’s fashion sense was in demand. She was happy with that.

Smartly, she played it down to us. No big deal. We’ll walk around. Just the two of us. Eat. Shop. Only for a few hours. Like all the other kids do.

Emphasis was placed on that last bit. We hear lots about “all the other kids”. They’re having buckets of fun, you know. At all hours. With an endless flow of cash.

It’s true, we’ve taken a cautious approach to parenting. No apologies there. The girls accept it, through gritted teeth and rolling eyes.

Daughter Two urged us to refuse. Unless she was allowed to go too. Priceless. The way of the younger sister.

The whole thing made me nervous. Yes, she’s responsible. Yes, she’s careful. And yes, the time had come to extend some freedom. Damn it.

We agreed that I’d drop her to the friend’s house in the morning, from where they could make the short bus trip. Without us. The afternoon would be theirs. Sort of.

As luck would have it, Daughter Two and I had things we could do in the city too. That meant we could collect them at the end of the day.

She’s a smart one, The Teenager. I could see she was considering flying the protest flag. Too much parental involvement. But weighing things up, quickly, she realised that this was the best deal going. And we’d actually said yes.

Her friend lives with mum in a city unit. Nice girl. We dropped The Teenager at the front gate, and within a giggling nano-second they disappeared inside.

Daughter Two and I slowly returned to the car. She asked why the girls didn’t come with us instead. Who’d rather catch a stinky bus than drive in the car?

Good point. I tried to stay calm. What if there was a rave party going on in that unit block? With sound proof walls? Was The Teenager’s mobile phone charged, in case she needed me to rescue her?

You know, there was a time when she wouldn’t cross the road without holding my hand. If I forgot, perhaps distracted by an upcoming trifecta, she’d grab mine first. And smile.

Not any more. Sigh.

We drove off. I looked in vain for smoke and flashing lights inside the unit. Is that what they have inside rave parties? Curse my lack of research.

The phone didn’t ring. I gathered myself. TRUST her. Half the time the girl is more mature than me anyway. Don’t tell The Treasurer that.

A few hours passed. Her sister and I were having fun, doing lots of nothing. Over lunch, we told stories. She was chatting away, as she does. And, I suspect, enjoying the rare solo status.

She’s 10, still with a wonderful splash of silliness. I hope she never loses it. Makes me laugh, constantly.

The questions never end. All with a straight face. Do you know when Beauty and the Geek starts again? Can I have a kitten for my birthday? How can you be sure this is fresh apple juice? For the record, I answered no, no and I don’t know.

We walked back out into the mall, and I realised she was holding my hand. Happy to be seen with her dad. For now, at least. Sigh.

The bridal shopping was a success. They arrived at our organised meeting place on time. I scanned the surrounds for smirking boys. Nothing. Ice creams were bought to celebrate.

We survived the day, both of us. Nothing to worry about, after all.

Bigger challenges are ahead, of course. First dates. Mixed parties. Schoolies.  One small step at a time.

Deep down, I know she’ll be fine. And I will be too. Really I will. Just as long as there’s some hand holding along the way.