When I was a child, my dad came into my room every night for a short chat before bedtime. One night he made a comment I never forgot.
“Being a teenager is hard, really hard. If I could, I would live the teenage years for you.”
We finished our conversation, he stepped out, and I fell asleep. But I never forgot his heartfelt proclamation.
As the years passed, I realized he was right: being a teenager was rough. Hormones, friends and school; everything carried an extra bite to it. But I knew that no matter what happened with others, my dad was there for me.
In high school, it was a tradition among my group of friends to take each other out for birthday breakfasts. We showed up at the birthday girl’s home early that morning. Ignoring pleadings to let her get dressed and put makeup on, we forced her into a car full of laughing girls and treated her to breakfast. Throughout the school day, as we saw the birthday girl in her pajamas, she’d pretend annoyance and we’d laugh over our cleverness. Everyone protested about those birthday breakfasts, but we all secretly loved them. That’s why the tradition continued.
As my birthday approached, I wondered if my friends would treat me to breakfast. I paid extra attention to their conversations, but they didn’t seem to be planning anything. I hoped they were being extra sneaky.
I went to bed the night before my birthday, expecting to be awakened by girlish giggles, only to be disappointed when my alarm went off at its normal time. Had my friends forgotten? Wasn’t I worth taking out to breakfast?
As my parents wished me a happy birthday that morning and I left for school, I saw them exchanging worried looks. I knew they were aware of the birthday breakfast tradition, so I tried to act nonchalant about the early morning absence of my friends; but they weren’t fooled.
That day at school my friends wished me a happy birthday, but none mentioned why they hadn’t taken me out to breakfast. I didn’t bring the subject up either, but I was deeply affected.
The day after my birthday, Dad woke me early and declared he was taking me out to breakfast. I knew why he was doing it; he felt bad about my friends’ neglect. At first I protested, I told him I was too tired and I didn’t care about that silly tradition. But I really did. And he knew it. He ignored my objections and forced me into the car for some early morning, daddy-daughter bonding over pancakes and eggs.
Breakfast with Dad reminded me of how fun he was. It also reinforced the fact that Dad would forever have my back. And he always has.