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Waiting for their return

By Joe Rector

One of my Facebook friends posted a rather sad message the other day. He lamented the relationship with his growing daughter and longed for the years before when he was at the center of her world. I replied that he was only living the normal life of a parent.

In my case, I should have known that my daughter Lacey and I were destined to struggle in at least part of our lives together. Upon her arrival, she looked up at me with eyes that seemed already capable of focusing. The message was clear: I’m here now and things are going to change.

Her stubborn streak reared its ugly head early. When she grew overly tired, this child would lie in the floor and cry, no sob, uncontrollably. The more exhausted she became the more she cried, but this little darling refused to sleep.

On one particular occasion, she was ill-tempered about having her picture taken. The photographer wanted her to cross her arms and lean forward on a pillow. Lacey wasn’t in the mood, and try though we might to convince her to follow instructions, the best we ever got was her folding her arms but holding them in mid-air.

Oh, I had plenty of special times with her during the toddler years. I’d pick her up from daycare, and we’d stop at the convenient store for white powdered doughnuts. She’d munch away on them and survey the world from her car seat. On another occasion, I took her to see “ET” at the movie theater, and my heart broke when she cried during the sad scenes.

During her early years in school, I enrolled her in activities that would give her exercise and improve her physical skills. Karate lasted only a couple of months. She was the only girl in the class, and her Gi wasn’t one of her favorite outfits. She played T-ball one year and spent a couple of years playing softball but never particularly liked them.

During middle school and high school, my daughter discovered defiance, and she set out to master it as if it were an art. If I said something was white, she countered that it was black. Many were the arguments we had in raised voices. Lacey never admitted I was right, and I refused to concede a single point to her. Most of these “wordy warfares” ended in my yelling, “Don’t slam your door, or I’ll take it off the hinges!” She never even gave the satisfaction of removing the thing, choosing instead to call me muffled names from the other side of the door.

On one rough evening, my daughter announced that she wished she could move out and never come back. I told her I was tempted to help back her bags. After that, we declared an uneasy truce in which she followed the rules Amy and I had set. I have no doubt that when she was out with friends that many of them were broken.

Amy and I took her to college at MTSU. In forty-five minutes, we’d unloaded and turned the car toward home. Lacey called home and cried, something that broke my heart. She said she was homesick. Those were wonderful words to hear from a daughter who was hell-bent on getting out of the house.

Since that time, Lacey has been that sweet, loving daughter I remember so many years ago. Sure, she has her moments, and so do I, when sparks fly and anger erupts. Nowadays, we know how to handle those spats much better, and neither of us doubts the strength of our love.

So, Facebook friend, don’t worry. Our children grow and rebel and drive us crazy. It’s only temporary. In no time at all, they come home and bathe us in their wonderfulness as we wrap our loving arms around them. It is tough now, but fear not, for we always love our children, and they always love us right back. We just have to wait for their return.

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