Tonight, I waited for my oldest daughter to get out of work. And I did what I always do when I get to pick her up. I turned on Spotify and I racked my brain for a song. I love to share music with her, I love to find the next song, or brag to her that I listened to the new Taylor Swift before she did.
I searched and searched. What type of mood would she be in, after working in a bakery for the last 4 hours? Were the customers nice, and in great moods because it’s the holidays and maybe they tipped more than normal. What songs are good for that? Or, did it suck because they screwed up an order and someone was pissed, what songs would she need then?
Music is just something I found we connect on. It’s one of my “ins” with her. So, I don’t stumble into new music I think she might like, I do my homework. I listen to so much shitty music to find that artist or that song that says to me “Yup, this is her jam”. When her bands come out with new music, I invest in it. I search for meaning in the songs, I come her to with my favorites. And she does the same. I love hearing “Hey Dad, you would LOVE this song.”
Earlier in the day, on the ride to drop her off at work she mentioned how excited she was to get her license in a little over a month. And, I was excited for her. I thought about how I won’t have to drive to all over this world and how I would soon be freeing up my schedule and maybe having that glass of wine with dinner because I don’t have to pick up anyone at 9 pm. I thought about how I don’t have to let her drive my car. I love that she’s learning, and she’s really good, but I AM THE DRIVER in my family. I don’t sit shotgun in my own damn car! So, yes, I am happy she is going to be a driver soon.
But, then as her shift ended and she wasn’t coming out I figured that something was wrong with the store. She was closing the store, so there is a full list of stuff they must do, so I figured she wouldn’t be in the best mood. I had the perfect song picked out before all of this was happening. What do I pick now? I scramble, is this a Lennon Stella night, or maybe it’s time for Sara Bareilles? Something sad, but pretty? Stevie Nicks? Someone help me….. but, in my panic we get a group text to my family chat from my youngest daughter with some really good news. So, I know my oldest will change her mood again. What is perfect for “I was sad, but now I’m thru the moon happy”. I almost give myself a pep talk. “You’ll find it Mark. You know her, think” …
Just then, it hits me. I see her closing the store door and walking towards the car. When she gets like 15 yards from the car, I hit play on the song. She opens the door and gets settled, we exchange a quick Hi, how was work conversation and then she says “Wow, I forgot about 21 Pilots, I love this song” and I smile and say something dumb like “ Oh yeah, I didn’t even notice it was them, but yeah, this song is great.” I had another small little win on my record. I live for “I love this song” ….
As the smile faded from my face and we settled into the ride home I remembered our conversation earlier about her getting her license. These rides, these small moments to stress about a song, to try and pick the perfect one for whatever mood she might in would be gone soon. I’ll miss these tiny moments. The smallest of them, testing my Dad skills by seeing what her first reaction is to whatever song I spent way too much time thinking about, is what I will miss. 10 seconds of each day that I have been practicing for the last 16 years. I won’t get to use this skill I have spent years studying for. Will it be all for naught. Will that time have been wasted? If you got this far in the story you know it wasn’t. You know, that I love being a Dad. I love all that behind the scenes work I get to do, all that stuff that no one sees, just me, overthinking scenarios and preparing for whatever comes my kids’ way. Do I need an “I’m so proud of you” speech or a “Even Losses turn to Wins if you just adjust the angle” speech? I’ve got them both ready, because I put the time in.
Being a Dad, to me anyway, is all about creating and being around for those tiny moments, all those tiny little completely meaningless moments that someday, all the sudden, are not meaningless. They are THE moments. They aren’t just the comma’s and periods in the story of your life, they are the words. They are the chapter titles. Someday, when my story is written I’ll remember “Car Radio” by 21 Pilots on December 23, 2020 like it was this earth-shattering moment, because to me, it was.