Happy Birthday to the Abster

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In just a few days my youngest daughter turns 14, going on 20. Anybody who has raised a teenager knows what I mean. One moment they’re still kids, giggling while rolling on the floor with the puppy, complaining because we’re making them take a bath. Moments later, they’re trying on massive amounts of makeup and spending hours primping in front of the mirror, wearing out the hair straightener while adding a sawbuck to the electric bill.

Teens’ heads can spin on a dime, ala Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.” Suddenly your IQ has dropped below freezing, in their estimation, because you won’t let them do what the mysterious “Mr. or Ms. Everybody” are doing. As in, “But Mom, everybody is going to the midnight showing of “Zombies Eat Their Young.”” If I ever meet this Everybody Duo, I’m going to chastise them for making the responsible parent’s life such a challenge.

This isn’t my first foray into raising teens, so not much surprises me in my dotage. The Abster, as we call her, became my daughter when her mom — the Beautiful Mystery Companion — and I married last June. It was a package deal and quite the bargain for yours truly — a woman I adore, another daughter to love, and Rosie, the World’s Cutest Dog. Seriously. We could rent Rosie out to single adults looking for a mate. Take her down the jogging trail, and folks just swoon over that pooch.

Abbie is smart, gorgeous, has a huge heart and will likely serve on the U.S. Supreme Court after a distinguished legal career — unless she decides to become president instead. The girl can argue with a rock— the material that at times she believes comprises the space between her parents’ ears. I look forward to hearing her first trial summation, if she chooses that path. The other side doesn’t stand a chance; her parents rarely do.

She remains our compass — literally. It remains a tossup which of us alleged adults is worse at finding our way around. We rely heavily on our two GPS devices — both named Gretel because she leaves electronic crumbs for us to find our way back. The GPS isn’t much help when walking unfamiliar streets on vacation, trying to remember where we parked. Abster has rescued us from meandering any number of times, shaking her head in bemusement at her directionally challenged parents.

In the nearly four years we have been hanging out, Ab is the go-to girl when it comes to all electronic gadgets. Her mom and I will be poring over the owner’s manual trying to decipher instructions written by someone for who English is not a native language, while Abster just grabs the device and starts figuring out how it works. It doesn’t matter what it is: iPhone, digital camera, new television, the aforementioned GPS. She will have it up and running before we have managed to find the index in the owner’s manual.

It will not come as a shock to parents or grandparents of teens reading this to learn that our daughter would prefer to spend every waking moment on Facebook, while clutching her phone in anticipation of the next text message, the iPod’s earbuds implanted in her skull. It is a grave injustice, in her view, that we don’t let her do that, that there are limits to electronic use. Tough turkey. This ain’t my first rodeo listening to teenagers complain about how mean I am as a dad. She will thank me someday when she approaches middle age and hopefully can still hear and see without glasses or hearing aids. Of course, I will be decrepit or dust by the time Ab is middle-aged. Best not dwell on that.

We have had some grand times together, the three of us, with lots of laughter as well as holding on to each other during times of loss and sorrow. I feel blessed and privileged to be Abbie’s dad and to do whatever I can to help her grow into the fine young woman she is certain to become. It’s been a wonderful journey thus far, and God willing it will continue for many years.

Happy Birthday, Abster. And turn down that iPod.


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