A gray-beard’s advice to a first-time dad. Also, happy birthday, Camdyn


cam vols
Camdyn made this photo illustration for me for a post I wrote about late University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summit.

I’m all out of little kids.

Officially. Today Camdyn turns 13. It’s only one milestone in nature’s reminders that I ain’t as good as I once was (but I’m as good once as I ever was.) This means that yes – just as the moon moved into position a coupla weeks ago) there’s a cosmic convergence.

I’m dad of three teenage girls.

Let that sink in a minute. No, not for effect. Just so I can rest my eyes for a minute. I feel like I’m having a time reaching the caffeine quotient to make up for the sleep deprivation. My calculations had been spot on before *removes glasses and wipes them*

I called Thursday night to add a line to our mobile plan for Camdyn.

That’s what she asked for. No more Webkinz and bracelet-making looms. So during Hayden’s practice, I called. I’ve been with T-mobile since the days of Suncom (who remembers them?) so they cut me a good deal on an extra line.

‘Ever wish for a son?’

I have to get my credit card out of the car, so to fill the silence, I tell the nice man on the other end of the line that I’m at my daughter’s practice.

My daughter is coming in December my new friend says. It’s not long before he learns I have three, and asks, as many do, did you ever wish for a son? Never, I say. The way these beasts wrestle and argue over fantasy football while in line at Bojangles?

He wraps up the transaction and says he’ll waive the fee for the SIM card and text me the confirmation. Camdyn’s going to love this.

Before I go, he says, could you help me with one thing? I’m thinking a survey, right? Yeah, I’ll help you out, brother. You’ve been good to me. But, no. Any advice for a man who is about to become a dad? I’m kind of scared, to be honest. I took a deep breath.

I forgot in the moment how tired I was. I forgot how many hours I’d spent in in the car this week, so many that I have to unfold myself from a seated position during the night because my body defaults to that. I forget that the ride to practice was mostly in silence.

I forget how at odds a dad can be with a teenage daughter.

A teenager daughter. I now have three, and I imagine my new friend, where I was one day, with a full head of hair and wrinkle free and showing signs of youthful exuberance. Hold her, as much as you can, I was saying.

camdyn and me (2)
Camdyn and I posted a photo like this to Twitter at the Jacksonville Jaguars stadium. We were in Broncos orange, but they put it on the big screen in the end zone anyway.

Just watch her

Play with her.

Spend time with her. Get on the floor when she’s a baby and just watch her. Dads think a baby girl needs her mother more than anything. She does. She also needs you. You’re the first man in her life.

You’re her sense of adventure and strength in a lot of ways.

You’re showing her how a man – or a boy – should treat her.

My friend on the other end of the line goes quiet. You just brought tears to my eyes he says and I realize that you never, ever know what’s going to happen the next moment in your life. You might think you do, but you don’t. Not even close.

So, happy birthday Camdyn.

I love the kid you are and the glimpses of the young woman you’re becoming. I’m in awe of your courage and encouraged by your awe of the world. I hope you’ll stay at my side for years and years until you realize you’re too cool for dad.

And also I love you.

van outen quote daughter

31 thoughts on “A gray-beard’s advice to a first-time dad. Also, happy birthday, Camdyn

  1. Happy Birthday to your daughter! 🙂 With three daughters of my own, all in their 20’s, I understand the sense of “she’s not a little girl anymore.” Just wait until she graduates from high school! Have a great weekend!

    1. Thanks, Dulcinea! Part of them is always a little girl, don’t you think? I have one out of high school so at least I’ve been through it once, and will twice by the time Camdyn gets there.

  2. Love this! Best advice, straight from the heart! Happy Birthday to your dear daughter who is obviously blessed with a Dad who may not know all but he knows the important things! 🙂

  3. That is so beautiful! There is nothing like a dad for a daughter…. Your girls are so lucky! I tell ya, my dad has always been my hero, has always been able to do EVERYTHING, and always knows what to do. Dads never come off from their pedestal – and that is pretty darn awesome.

  4. Super happy birthday Camdyn. May the year ahead be blessed.
    Dads and daughters rock. My dad taught me woodworking, secret writing and gave me my love of books.

    1. Thanks, Lyn! She’s off to a good start (goals in her first two games after turning 13!) I love my life as dad of daughters.

      I hope that my girls will remember things I taught them, as you have of your dad.

  5. Someone posted on my Facebook recently that someday your parents are going to pick you up, as in physically carry you, for the last time. And I thought that was the saddest thing ever as a mom to realize that I can’t carry my baby anymore. I haven’t been able to for years now, but when you look back at the very limited time you had to rock and cuddle and play Barbie dolls on the floor, it at least makes a person glad to have done all those things when you had the chance.

    I hope Camdyn uses that phone to call Dad often. I can’t imagine why else she’d want it. 🙂

    1. That’s profound, Joey, the thought of the last time picking up your kid. Madison cried when that time came for her.

      It flies by. I do have great memories of playing on the floor with these girls.

      I hope she’ll call and text. She likes my Instagram posts, so that’s something, right?

  6. I teared up when I read this, Eli. For happy reasons. I just love what you told the T-Mobile rep for your answer.

    And I hope Camdyn had a very happy birthday. September birthdays rock. (Mine was the 5th.)

    1. Honored it affected you, Sara. The good way. I just thought of myself at that stage and how I couldn’t wait to meet my daughter.

      Happy birthday to you too! Camdyn made a weekend of it for sure.

  7. Happy birthday Camdyn! Great advice for a new day. Kudos to him for having the courage to ask, too. We’re in that awkward “I want to act like a grown up, but I’m still a kid” stage with our 10 year old. In one minute he’s too cool for mom and dad, the next he’s hugging and needing us.

    1. Thanks, Eric. That advice was what I could think of on the spot, but I think it can mean a lot. There are so many awkward stages ahead, too!

      Madison will be 20 in November, but I think she’s still in that stage your 10-year-old is in!

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