My daughter, Michaela, celebrated her 14th birthday recently. Even though she has been a teenager for more than a year now, I still find myself looking for the little girl who used to race through the house to hug me at the front door every night when I got home from work.
Now, if I am lucky I get a quick “Hey dad,” and if I try to steal a hug, I hear “You’re being weird, dad,” as she unclasps my arms from her like they were radioactive.
She, and her “besty,” Dominique, who was also celebrating her 14th birthday asked to have some friends over for a birthday party which seemed innocent enough until I learned there would be about 20 kids coming over to our house, half of them boys.
Suddenly I was prickled by the memories of my eighth-grade basement parties in which a room full of hormone-spiked adolescents played Spin the Bottle and Post Office. My past and my daughter’s future were on a collision course.
Michaela’s plan was to cook S’Mores around the fire pit if the rain held off, otherwise they would retreat to our family room. I was praying for rain so that I could keep a closer eye on the crowd that began to get dropped off at 6 p.m.
My soon-to-be 17 year old son and a few of his friends volunteered (okay, they were paid) to patrol the perimeter to make sure that no one wandered into the dark woods bordering our property.
I held my breath for much of the next four hours, watching the bonfire flames licking up toward the night sky, trying to count heads, making sure everyone was accounted for. While boys with backwards caps and girls with yoga pants roamed through the house, my wife calmly surveyed the chaos, and I wrung my hands until they were blue. On occasion, I would see a couple of shadowy figures stray too far from the fire, and my son would steal up next to them, and sound his hidden air horn, blasting them out of their amorous reverie.
At 10 p.m. headlights bounced across our front lawn. The cavalry had arrived, and not a minute too soon for me. After every last urchin was whisked away, I could hear Michaela and Dominque giggling happily, presumably comparing notes about their party.
I asked her how things went. She flashed me a big smile and gave me an unsolicited hug. “It was great, daddy.”
When I asked if I could have a birthday party with my best friend Dominique for our 14th, I was surprised to get a yes. Little did I know my dad was gearing up for a trip to Party City for a baby-pink piñata, a cake, and some “my little pony” candles. Dad, crank up the hearing aids. I said 14, accent on the “teen.”
On that note, you should have seen the look on my dad’s face when I said the “B” word. We are talking about boys here. Yes dad, boys. They no longer have cooties, at least most of them don’t. They are no longer stinky, nor sticky, for that matter. In fact, a chosen few are actually acceptable for yours truly.
So when I say party, I do not mean a sleepover with the girls in footsies, giving each other makeovers, telling each other our “crushes,” and painting each other’s toenails. I mean music and hot boys. And of course, Dominique by my side to check out the boys.
After about four hours of getting ready, Dominique and I were looking good. We were excited about the party and all was great until I came down the stairs. Of course, we were stopped by the fashion policeman, who by the way, asks me what tie he should wear every day.
“Are those paint-on leggings? Did a bear attack you?” No father. We actually have a sense of style. I know, it’s hard to believe, someone with your DNA can actually wear a matching pair of socks.
So when the party finally came, my mom was on call with the defibrillator paddles in the event my dad went into cardiac arrest when he saw a male and female actually touch skin. And then there was my annoying brother with the air horn. I’m pretty sure by the fourth blast of the horn, people pretty much understood that no “hanky panky” was going down at this party.
Of course, if my father’s “precious” were out of sight for more than a couple of minutes (probably timed exactly considering he times everything, and I mean everything with his stopwatch) he was bringing out his bull dog face, when he gets slightly stressed and bites his upper lip with his lower jaw, just like a bull dog. It seemed for him, 10 o’clock couldn’t come soon enough.
Little does he know, the boys will be back.