1. PREHISTORIC TERMS. Every time I say “junior high” instead of “middle school” or “stereo” instead of “sound system,” my daughters look at me as if I’m so ancient I belong somewhere between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnan man in that scale of human evolution.
2. MINOR PROGRESS. One of the advantages of having a musically gifted child is that she can explain your favorite music to you. Of course, much of what my youngest says – like “in this song there’s a perfect fifth that you would think resolves to the 1st major 7th, but it actually resolves to the relative minor suspended 2nd” — goes completely over my head. But now, thanks to her, I can say things to my wife like, “Hey, sweetie, catch the awesome bridge in this song.” Baby steps, I know, but hey, I’ll take pride in them anyway because before my daughter and I started having these discussions, I didn’t even know what a bridge was!
3. THROWBACK OUTFIT. My affinity for non-faded, non-ripped, straight-legged, high-waisted jeans earns the following “compliment” from my eldest: “Cool, Dad, look at you, going all retro.”
4. DIGITAL ETIQUETTE. I try not to let my oldest daughter watch me type anything into Google. Invariably, I enter things like “Who was the 15th President?” instead of just “15th President.” She thinks this is hysterically funny and accuses me of not knowing how to search fast and efficiently. I just think I have the good manners not to be abrupt with anyone or anything, including digital interfaces.
5. HISTORY REWRITTEN. One of the great anecdotes from my oldest daughter’s childhood was when a substitute kindergarten teacher scolded her for walking funny in front of her classmates, and my daughter pulled the teacher aside (so as not to embarrass her!) to explain that her leg hurt and it would be nice if the teacher talked to her about it away from the other kids. My wife and I took great pride in our little one’s gumption. For years, we told that story to friends, using it as evidence that we never had to worry about our daughter’s ability to stand up for herself. Too bad it was all I lie! Just last year, our daughter finally confessed it never happened that way. Her little five-year-old self came home from school that day telling us what, in her mind, she’d wished she’d said to her teacher. When she saw how excited that made us, both in that moment and in the years since when we shared that story, she simply couldn’t find the nerve to admit the incident was made up. My wife simply laughed at this admission, still proud that our daughter at five could have imagined how to tell her teacher to treat her better. I took the discovery much harder. For me it was like finding out George Washington never chopped down the cherry tree or told his father, “I cannot tell a lie.” Once that was cast into doubt, so was every associated fact. Was he even our first president? Did my daughter really run for student council in the third grade? When I started to grill her, feeling the need to check on the veracity of every detail from her life that she’d ever reported, my daughter weathered the interrogation with perfect calm and little emotion. She showed no guilt over bending the truth. She certainly took no pity on her father, who was behaving like his whole world had been turned upside down. No, all she did was grin and tell me, “I guess you can never know for sure, Dad, if anything I told you was true or made up.” But seeing the joy she took in teasing me provided all the relief I needed. My earliest belief about her was entirely confirmed: The girl’s got gumption!