I got home the other night after a wearing day. I was exhausted, looking forward to the cold beer that sat in my fridge and playing my neglected guitar until my fingers failed. Genesis had just given me a new song to learn before she went back to her mom’s house; Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years is much better than the wrecking ball she tried getting me to learn weeks before. Any other day and I would have had the energy to finish my beer and nail down the song by memory. Unfortunately, I started to doze off, ready to fall asleep in a sitting position, feeling quite comfortable and worn.
A loud buzz yanked me from my slumber, realizing the girls left our other phone on. This phone is used in combination with a microphone, guitar amp and YouTube to create our own at-home karaoke. There is a small data package attached to it so I don’t like to leave it on when we’re not using it. I reluctantly got up, grabbed the phone off the air hockey table and held the button to shut it down. Wait. There is a message:
Hey can I tell u something?
And now I’m wide awake.
I wasn’t aware that this phone was being used for messaging purposes; Gen has her own phone for that. Was this something that is none of my business? Who is this person? Is it a boy or a girl? How old are they? Where is this area code? Why are they sending messages this late at night?
In my defense, this phone belonged to me. I scrolled to the top and read the conversation in its entirety. At first, I started feeling guilty about it. The messages were playful, 12-year old chitchat stuff that brought back memories of my own childhood. The ‘who likes who’ and ‘do you like me’ type of stuff. When I was a kid, we didn’t have text messaging. You had to be brave enough to either 1) smuggle a note across the classroom without the teacher confiscating it; 2) build up enough courage to go talk to them at recess; or 3) have a friend go talk to her on your behalf. The world was so complicated yet elementarily simple.
As I scroll a little further, Gen tells this kid (by now realizing it’s a boy) to hang on, she is going to change in her pajamas. His response:
Send me a pic…
…of u changing.
Holy shit. Seriously, shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit! Is this really happening right now? Is this the beginning of what everyone has warned me about with having daughters? Do I even want to scroll further? Is God punishing me for all the bad things I did as a boy? At this point, I was ready to reply to his sleep-depriving message and instill just enough fear that he’d never want to be left alone. I wanted to deliver a response that would cause him to sleep in his parents’ bed for the rest of his life, eat all his vegetables, and get straight As throughout his education. I didn’t even consider talking to his parents; I would handle this myself.
But I didn’t. As I scrolled further, knowing there might be a small chance at seeing the last photo I’d ever want to see, I realized that Gen handled herself pretty damn good. Though I’d rather her respond starting with – LISTEN ASSHAT – she weaved through it and didn’t comply with his request. Her non-response spoke volumes because the messages that followed minutes later were messages of You know I was just kidding, right? and You didn’t think I was serious, did you? She laughed it off, being the friend that she is, not wanting to make any person upset.
I turned the phone off, knowing I needed to speak with her mom before speaking with her and before responding to him the next day. Her mom and I talked and discussed how we’d uniformly present these findings and how we can have resolution. This wasn’t one of those she can’t talk to this boy ever again types of conversations. This was one of those WOW, the times are changing and we have to deal with this together moments.
Gen called me shortly after hearing it from her mom. I didn’t need to reiterate the details of what we both already knew; I wasn’t going to waste time on that. Our phone call was somewhat brief yet to the point. It wasn’t about warning her of boys particularly, or the horny boy in question, but rather about her choices and her value. It was about choosing relationships that add value to her self, rather than being in relationships (boy or girl) that go against her grain. It was about the bright future she holds in her hand and the evilness that exists in people willing to take it away. It was about never compromising her character to appease another, and never feel challenged to do something that doesn’t flow with the beat of her own drum. I told her I loved her, and that I’ll never choose who she can and cannot associate herself with. God knows that I’ve chosen horrible relationships and have learned from them. I’d rather her choose relationships of value and bypass all that self-inflicted wickedness I once thought was normal.
That night I turned the phone back on. The messaging system was an app that can tell when someone is available. The same message came though for a second time.
Hey can I tell u something?
Me: (Name omitted), this is Gen’s father. Never, ever joke, hint, insinuate (look it up), or even come close to ever asking my daughter for a picture of her changing ever again.
Him: I’m sorry sir. I will never contact her again. My friend had my phone.
Me. I’m not saying to not contact her. She is allowed to choose her relationships. Respect her for who she is. Don’t lie to me. Your phone is your responsibility.
Him: I’m really sorry sir.
Me: I accept your apology.
And that was that. It was a good opportunity to speak with Gen about the upcoming pre-teen, puberty stuff every kid goes through. It was a time to explain how valued she is, and to continue to value herself. For him, it was a good lesson in second chances. God knows we all need them.
Thanks again for reading and being a fan of Full-Time Daddy on Facebook. Feel free to comment if you have a similar story, or how you handled it. I’d love to read it.