Ingrid, who will be 15 next month (unbelievably), is at dance camp this week. This one is two hours away in a university setting. This is her first time to be away by herself from her family and from me.
We went shopping the other day for some outfits for her. Each day of camp has a theme and the girls were encouraged to wear things that fit with those themes as they work on their routines. So she picked out some things.
Ingrid rarely likes what I like for her. Maybe it’s a girl thing, or just being a teen. I’d pull something off the rack and say, “What about this, sweetie?” She’d hold it up in front of her and say, “I’m not feeling it.” And hand it back to me.
That happens a lot, actually. But, I don’t mind. She has good taste and besides, I love her independence, the fact that she knows what she likes and it doesn’t have to be what I like.
She found things that fit her feelings, that express who she is, things that out in the middle of the dance workouts, will feel good on her.
I have been the only dad she knows. Her biological father abandoned her shortly after her birth. She has never heard from him or seen him since. He has never made any effort to know this beautiful child. She came to me when she was two years old and watching her grow up has been so rewarding.
Swimming lessons. Learning to ride a bike. Discovering the joy of reading. Playing catch together. Watching her on the soccer field. Ballet lessons. Dance class. Arts and crafts. Painting. Writing private thoughts in her journal. Learning to hit a golf ball, and a softball. Fishing. Making friends. Getting on the honor roll. Being in Student Council. Going through the process of Confirmation. Taking her first Communion. Experiencing Confession. Finding her way to a faith that is hers. Dealing with boys. It’s all a part of growing into the young woman she is becoming.
We’re going to the beach for her 15th birthday. She didn’t want a quinceañera, which is actually the fiesta de quince años, a celebration of a Latino girl’s fifthteenth birthday. The roots of it come from Latin America and it is often celebrated in the U.S. in Latino families.
It’s a rite of passage for girls, which I think is a fantastic idea. But many of them turn into very elaborate festivities, some of them more like a wedding with all of the expenses. Ingrid did not want that. She wanted a quiet time with her family at the beach. So that’s what we are doing.
I raised two great sons. They were a delight to me as boys, so full of life and their own interests, and yes, some mischief now and then. They turned into gifted, loving men and they were and are a profound part of my life and my heart.
Some people ask if girls are harder to raise than boys. It seems a pointless question to me. Children are amazingly wonderful, whatever their gender. Yes, they have obvious differences, likes, and dislikes. But they are these priceless little lives filled with so much potential for talent and intelligence, compassion and love. They require a lot of care in those first years, incredible care; tenderness, kisses, hugs, security, joy, and the awareness they are safe and cherished and provided for.
I now have two beautiful grandchildren, and they too, are stars in the firmament of my sky. Brilliantly alive with affection and curiosity, fun and glee. I hold all of my children and grandchildren to my heart and keep them there with such endearment. I want so much for all of them. Mostly to know they are abundantly loved by me.
Ingrid will return home soon. I have talked to her each evening to hear how it’s all going, and all has been well. She loves camp. All the nerves of going disappeared in the excitement of her arrival. The day's activities and routines have kept her busy with fun and learning.
These beautiful human beings trusted to our care. It is such an incredible responsibility, and honor. Can we ever love them enough?
© 2017 Timothy Moody