I am the dad of three sons.
Correction. I was the dad of three sons. Or still am. For fifteen years “Male Father of Male Offspring” might as well have been on my business card. Merriem and I grew accustomed to it: rough horseplay, body odor, deodorant talks (among other talks), and burp-and-poop jokes were what we knew.
And then – in addition to being the dad of three sons, I became the dad of a daughter.
Friends lovingly warned me that life would change. They advised that tactics that had worked for the guys wouldn’t necessarily work for the girl. They explained that I could bring her to tears with just one ill-timed word or glance. But there was one thing they didn’t explain:
The picture that accompanies this post gives you a literal snapshot of The Notes. You need to know that’s not all The Notes. It’s not even a small fraction of a small percentage of The Notes. It is as many notes as I can currently fit on my cubicle wall without having a structural engineer come and check the capacity of the floor joists, and it’s as many notes as I could hang with Staples’ current supply of thumb tacks and clips. (And by the way, what you see is the top layer of notes. There are layers upon layers upon layers of notes under there. I’m actually not sure if I even still have a cubicle wall, or if my desk is simply surrounded by a thick hedge of drawings and coloring sheets and well wishes from my baby girl.)
Haven has been writing us notes as long as she’s been able to hold a pencil. Other girl parents have explained to me that notes are a big thing in Girl World. The Notes started off simple enough: one single line drawn on a scrap of paper and handed to me with sticky hands. “I made diss for you, daddy.” I’m sure that note was laminated and matted and placed in a gold-leaf frame over the mantle, because after all: she made diss for me.
But then single lines and scrap paper got more elaborate. Soon she moved up to Post-It Notes. Then full pieces of copy paper raided from the printer. Then notes wadded up and shoved into envelopes. She was single-handedly keeping local paper companies in business and receiving cease-and-desist emails from environmentalists.
And then: she learned to spell.
Knowing how to spell lends a new dimension to note-writing. Previously, I had to spell out I l o v e y o u D a d d y if she wanted to write a “surprise” note for me. But now that she’s hit first grade and has spelling tests on the reg (which she aces, thank you very much), she can sound out and spell words with enough accuracy that we understand what they say:
I love dad bast (pretty sure that’s either “best,” which means I’m currently in first place above my wife, or “baste” which means she has huge plans for me at Thanksgiving.)
I am sorry thet you aer sick I stil love you dad (thank you for the assurance that my stuffy nose has your approval)
I dont know how to mek the remot work (that’s fine parenting, right there…letting the TV babysit our kid)
Multiple times per day, Merriem and I will receive love notes and grocery lists. Dinner orders and apology letters. Detailed coloring sheets and tissue paper masterpieces. And woe be unto us if we ever attempt to get rid of even one scrap piece of paper with a line drawn on it, because she will find it and she will bring it to us and she will demand a tearful, repentance-filled conversation centered around WHY DID YOU THROW THIS AWAY I MADE THIS FOR YOU!
In a recent PTA meeting, Haven’s teacher told Merriem that there is never a moment of the day where she has any fewer than twenty notes from Haven on her desk. The other night, Haven told me that “Mommy has a surprise for you.” When I said that she probably shouldn’t tell me about it, she complied. And then wrote me a note telling me what the surprise was.
This is our world right now. We purchase reams of paper and stacks of notecards, and in return we get sweet messages and whimsical drawings to thank us for the paper and notecards. I love that I’m raising someone who loves to write. I pray that continues as she gets older. I pray that her “I love dad bast” Post-Its will evolve into journal entries and essays and creative writing and lunchbox drawings to her own kids and – yes – even notes to her Daddy.
But meanwhile, I pray that I can find enough thumb tacks to keep all of The Notes organized.
Maybe she can add that to her grocery list.