Blog: A Blog About My Daughter...And Fear
(originally written 8/31/10)
A few weeks back—I honestly don’t remember if I was back in California yet, but I think I was—I watched the film College Road Trip, with Martin Lawrence playing Raven Symone’s overprotective father.
Martin usually portrays varying degrees of clown in his movies, but when required he is not a bad actor at all, and the scene I’m about to describe proved it. Near the very end of this movie, as Raven is about to walk through the doors of her new college, Martin looks her in the eye and tells her he is (emphatically) proud of her, and he will always be there for her if she needs him.
What happened next left me utterly dumbfounded.
That closing scene of College Road Trip, a lowbrow comedy, mind you, caused me to weep.
That’s right, WEEP.
Like a hormonal pregnant woman who can’t find her keys.
Only Josie was there to witness the horror, so I picked her up and held her until I was finally able to pull it together. Even she couldn’t understand what was going on. Josie looked at me as if to say, “Dad…you’re disgracing the family name. Could ya cut it out?”
After taking a home pregnancy test that came back negative, I set out to examine what exactly caused me to have this frightening reaction to a Martin Lawrence movie. All I had to go on was that it definitely had something to do with Josie.
The basic theme of this film—Raven played an academically gifted, all-round good kid. Martin played her good-intentioned dad, who was unable to accept that she didn’t need, or want, his parenting 24-7. He went to great lengths to “protect” her, while she tried desperately to assert some semblance of independence. It was clear they loved each other deeply otherwise, but when Martin went too far trying to prevent her from going to college far away, Raven got mad at him. Only when he prevented her from missing enrollment did they make up—leading to the above scene.
After some analysis, I realized part of the reason I wept—I want to be Martin and Josie to be Raven come the year 2028.
I want to one day be able to beam with admiration at my once-little girl, all grown up and not just ready, but eager to take on the world. I want her to have a head that is enviable on the outside and inside. I look forward to the day when my role as a day-to-day parent is complete, when I can proudly see Jozanah off to college—doesn’t matter where so long as it’s domestic—knowing she is on her way to being a happy, productive adult.
And I want her to know she can always call on Dad if things get rough.
Figuring out the primary tear trigger was harder; I had to perform the frightening task of examining my own mind for this one. After even deeper analysis, it turned out I fell apart because whether she’s a nine-month old baby or an 18-year-old student, I know that even if I try as hard as Martin did, I cannot protect her from everything in this dangerous, unpredictable world. Nothing can.
And, just as freakishly tall women like Rebecca Lobo do, that scares me to my very soul. (FYI, Rebecca Lobo was a 6'4" WNBA star in the 1990's. But I'm not here to talk about the past.)
Just yesterday, Josie fell victim to a nasty diaper rash. It was killing her. We still had to clean and dry the area after she soiled herself, of course, and for Josie we may have well lit her on fire with a match. As she screamed and shook in unbearable pain, I tried desperately to comfort her in any way I could, but was completely powerless. It is a feeling I will never forget—watching Josie’s pained eyes looking in ours, as if to say, “Why are you doing this to me? I thought you loved me. Mom, Dad, HELP.”
Believe me, if there were some way to rip the rash off and beat it senseless for hurting my daughter, I would have. But all I could do was apply medicine and wait…
Bad things happen all the time in life that no one can predict. Think of that poor two-year-old mauled by his grandpa’s dog in his own house last month. Think of the bus crash in Southern California. Those kids were on their way to play music. One of them ended up in the morgue. Think of the monster truck gathering, also in SoCal, in which the truck lost control and smashed eight people to death. They went there fully expecting to see a race, then go home that night. Their loved ones anticipated their returns. Only they DIDN’T return.
Innocent people are shot, stabbed, run over, etc. every day with no cause or warning. Think of that European tourist in San Francisco. One minute her and her husband are enjoying the sights of a far-off land. The next, her husband is a widow, a stray bullet having pierced his wife’s skull. It happened like THAT.
How the hell can I protect Josie from that? And even if I manage to do that, there are plenty of non-violent tragedies I have to watch for. Food poisoning—if some restaurant doesn’t check its’ expiration dates, people could die. Cancer, like Derek Fisher’s daughter had. I don’t have Derek Fisher’s resources or connections. If Josie gets that, what can I do?
I’m not sure, but I know what I HAVE to do today is not worry, because I cannot control everything. All I can do as a father is minimize the risks and put her in the safest environments possible. She has to live her life—we cannot lock her in a room to keep her safe. Anytime you have a child, you’re putting her life in the hands of the other gazillion people in the world, and hoping for the best.
I also know one other thing.
If any other person causes Josie pain like that rash did, and I find out about it, that person will be killed. By me. And I will enjoy it. Don’t f--- with my daughter, America. You’re on notice.