I have written recently and violently against people who suggest in front of my 11-year-old daughter that she is going to hate me very soon. And why wouldn't I? It's like being told with a laugh, "Enjoy your health while you have it, because there's probably a malignant tumor growing in you right now!"
But there are moments when I sense that Scout will indeed despise me for moments or days or (please not) years—as an inevitable and necessary backlash for the idol-worship I have bathed in for this first sweet decade. Just as I could not have been expected to disabuse my child of the idea, oft-repeated, that I'm "the best dad in the world!"—she can't be asked to hide her surprise and outrage and resentment when she discovers, at the very least, that I am only one man (and not so many other wonderful men that I might have been). That I am selfish, that all that I have ever done, which once looked so Godlike and generous to my child, can be explained by pure self-interest—including everything I have ever done for her. And that I am as bad as I know I am—as I have always known I am, and will always be.
Adolescent chemicals or no, these natural realizations on a child's part—especially about the people who pose as her moral, intellectual and spiritual guides—these have to take some getting used to!
And how does a child of any age get used to a thing? By giving it a name. Scout confessed to me the other day that she was walking behind me and a tennis partner and she said, under her breath—for no reason at all, she swore!—"You dumb-ass." She's practicing.
The word kids usually use to describe adults is, "hypocrite." Last weekend Scout called me out on a derogatory remark I made about a panhandler—and furthermore, asked why I wouldn't give the man a dollar. And then listened more than skeptically to my weak response, about how "lots of experts say you shouldn't give money to the homeless." Experts! Practicing, practicing.
I am not a dumb-ass to her, and I don't think she knows the word "hypocrite" yet. (Though she knows the concept.) I still get three lovely and unsolicited hugs per day, still have deeply serious conversations with her about feelings and history and nature, still sing duets with her and run miles and watch movies and read poems with her. I laugh harder and no more happily than when Scout imitates me, or lovingly calls me out on some foolishness, or asks me obvious questions for which I have no answer at all, like, "Why do you care how many people read your blog?"
And I don't expect to be despised generally or for any prolonged period by someone who knows, as well as she knows anything in the world, that she is the earth to my moon.
But hard stuff is coming—and it will be as hard for her as it is for me (and for my wife, who I've intentionally left out of this)—and I know the fighting must come before peace and understanding can be achieved. Because what if the fighting never came, and the mature understanding and peace never came either?
Practicing, practicing, practicing.