Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Daughter's Dark Gift

       I'm a middle child. I will say that up front, in case I start defending some of my nine-year-old middle child's missteps. Irene Mills Smith was born St. Patrick's Day, 2003. It was a rainy day, windy, a couple days before America invaded Iraq. I remember President Bush giving Saddam 48 hours to 'run and tell that,' to get out of downtown, to put 'em up or die. I hardly paid attention because I was holding my brand new baby girl in my arms. I had a four-year-old boy who was as close to perfect as any child I had ever been around. Parenting was easy, I had four solid years of being the perfect Dad. The first time Irene opened those baby blues and looked me square in the eyes that March morning, I knew immediately I would pay dearly for my many past transgressions. Like Saddam, I was warned.

    It has been an unnerving experience to watch this child o' mine grow, experience life, speak, lie, sneak, laugh, complain, sleep (and dream), love, manipulate and essentially try to manage the world almost exactly the way I did. There is no mirror clearer than the one she's forced on me the last nine years. I hear so many people say that children are products of their environment, that they are developed. So, it seems then, dads.....parents should take all the glory and all the blame. No, have to call bull****. Yes, we have influence, a lot of it, and I certainly have a long way to go before I'm warning grooms about what they're getting in to, but so far as I can tell, my children, good and bad, are God's mystifying genetic lesson plan. 

     I really can't tell you a lot about Irene without telling on myself. She is a beautiful, bright, athletic, talented underachiever. If I need a child to run a 5k with me, I go to Irene. If I need a child to break in to the house, I go to Irene. My father, Pops, told me she had a 'dark gift' just like her father's. I didn't know it at the time, but that was my 48 hours, my time to clear downtown. My father gave me my warning.

    Right, it has taken me nine years to figure that out....three years to understand what my late father meant. My warning was simple, but not always easy. Pops told me to be a good father. When he said she had my dark gift, he said, and now it's so clear, I should be a gentle giant for her, coach her, listen to her when she will talk, grow a thicker skin when I'm not the number one guy in her life (and I feel it coming), be her friend and her Dad, always be strong for her, be flexible, and stand by her, through all her good and bad decisions. Thanks to Pops, the dad show has been so much more effective because finally instead of dodging the mirror Irene constantly holds in front of me, I look it square in her eyes and kindly, but firmly, let her know she has 48 hours. 

         Below is a link to her second grade Valentine's Day program. You can't miss her, she 's front and center. In a month, she will finish third grade and, I'm told, head straight for high school.

Dad Show


  1. Really cute. I did my practice teaching at Poplar Springs, was offered the job as music teacher because the teacher was leaving, but I just wanted to teach piano at the time. I especially liked Boogie Shoes. She will be a heartbreaker for sure!

  2. Awesome, a comment! My six-year-old is sitting next to me now and says your're comment is very nice but because I've waited so long to reply, you are 'probably mad and will never come back.' Rose is a Boogie Shoes girl, too. Irene, now in 4th grade and full of tween angst, won't even watch the video anymore, and I'm pulled in every time by Captain and Tennille. Really, thanks for reading, watching and taking the time to send us a note. I can speak for Rosie and me... you made our morning!