Daddy Issues: Now She is Six


“Daddy! Daddy! Look!”

I love it when she’s excited.


“Daddy! Look what Nana Nan got me!”

It’s a T-shirt. We like T-shirts.

“It says …”

Aw, she’s pointing to each word on the t-shirt. Like she’s reading. This is adorable.

“… Actually, I can and I will.”


I don’t doubt that.

She’s 6 now. The specifics of how 6 happened in no more than 2 ½ years is a time warp only other parents understand. They all warn you it will happen as soon as you join the ranks. “It goes so fast,” they say, and how could that be true, because the days are longer than any day you’ve experienced in your life.

And then one day the kiddo’s 6 and, well ahead of what the guidebooks suggest, she learns to roll her eyes, say “Whatever,” and then comes home with a declaration of independence printed on a T-shirt — exactly where the Declaration of Independence would be written today. Unless the founders rolled it out on Snapchat.

Now, we like independence in our house. At least as much as we like T-shirts. But tone is as important as intent and here I think the kiddo and I part ways lately.

I wish she’d take this to mean, “Actually, I can and I will listen when you ask me to not touch everything I see in the store.”

She takes it to mean, “Actually, I can and I will point out to you everything in my sightline I’m not touching. Like those strawberries, every carton of milk, some bread, a few grapes, most of the lettuce, etc.”

I’d love it to mean, “Actually, I can and I will avoid answering every request with ‘Why?'”

She’d prefer it mean, “Actually, I can and I will expect you to explain to me in agonizing detail exactly why I can’t have ice cream for breakfast or candy for ‘other breakfast.’ And, no, ‘because’ isn’t an acceptable answer.”

It’d be fantastic if once — just once — it meant, “Actually, I can and I will.” Instead of “Whatever, Dad.”

And I get it. She’s 6. She can, when she wants to, do a lot of things she’s never been able to do. She can turn the kitchen drawers into a step to reach a mug to fill with juice from a bottle that’s too full for her to pour. But she’ll douse the counter just the same, because she can.

After a few days of summer hockey camp, she could skate backwards. After a few days at another camp, she could throw knives. (I was more excited about the skating, to be honest.) In a bookstore on vacation this summer, asked by the owner how she dyed her hair blue (“Turquoise,” she said, annoyed, whenever I said blue), she said, “Well, first you wait until Dad leaves town for a week.” So her jokes are getting better.

Actually, she can and she will do a lot of things I’ve been telling her she could do all along. And she’s proven to me time again she can do things I didn’t think she could.

Recently, we went kayaking. Just the two of us. I rented the kayak and the guys asked if I needed a second paddle.

“No,” I said.

“Yes,” the kiddo said.

What the heck. I can store it easily enough.

Then we got on the river, and she grabbed the paddle and went to work. She figured out the rhythm and the motion. She was into it.  We went an hour downriver and stopped for lunch on a little piece of beach. She laughed and she goofed in the shade. We got back and paddled. She tired out, and I paddled.

After about 20 minutes working up river solo, she turned and said, “Would it help if I helped?”

“Actually,” I said, “It would.”

She did. And she could.

Ryan White
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