Today is my daughter's birthday. She turns 13 years old. For the life of me, I can't believe that I'm now the parent of a teenager.

How did this happen? Especially since I'M a teenager?

I mean, I feel like I am. I still feel like I'm in college...working at my college radio station, Z89, at Syracuse University. That's what it's like to "work" (I use the term loosely) at a radio station  It's like perpetually being 19 years old. You work with your get paid to have fun. Not a ton of stress. The life of a radio personality isn't the worst.

That's why I just can't come to grips with my little baby girl entering the teenager club.

Don't get me wrong, there's NOTHING wrong with teenagers. I think that age group tends to get a bad rap. Most of the teens I know are really great kids, but they're OTHER people's kids. Not mine.

My kids are supposed to be little. They're supposed to run up to me and tackle into me with a big hug when I get home from work. They're not supposed to be teenagers.

I think back to the days just before she was born. I was scared to death.  How could I be someone's father? I felt like my father was "the father."

I remember holding her for the very first time. I remember taking our first nap together, which, looking back on it now, seems to have been a dangerous thing to do. Judging from the photos I was fast asleep with her by my side. She was so little, I feel now that I could have rolled over and hurt her. But I had been up all night during the delivery, and was probably not thinking as straight as I should have been. I held onto her tight. There was no mistake. I was her daddy. I knew it...and she knew it.


A couple of days later, we buckled her into her car seat and drove home at about 15 miles per hour. We plopped her on the couch, still in her car seat, and I clearly remember thinking to myself, "What now?  What do we do????"  We had spent months preparing for this little baby. Now she was here, and this was our new family. It was a very surreal feeling.

Now, that little baby is a teenager. And she heads off to "Survival" camp next week...a week in the wilderness with limited food...and without beds, bathrooms, or electronics. It's similar to the coming of age walkabouts of the Australian Aborigines.

But she's not the only one coming of age. As parents, I feel like we are, too. We will have to fight our parental instincts.

Since that very first nap with her, I've held onto her tight. It will be hard to do, but our grip needs to loosen. She deserves that. She's earned that.

She's not that little baby sleeping by my side anymore.

She's my teenager.


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