Finally, after more than five and a half years, I’m giving my daughters something they’ve been asking for — I’m retiring from this column at the end of next month — and they can have their precious privacy back.
Just to be clear, before I started writing about being their dad, back when my girls were 15 and 12 years old, we talked about it. They were unsure what it would be like having bits of their lives published in a paper that sits out in the Key Food where we, and their friends, shop. Their nightmares were of written versions of the Kardashians or “Jon and Kate Plus 8,” spilling all the minutia of their lives into newsprint.
I know that part of adolescence is the desire to change and recreate one’s self, almost on demand. My daughters have started high school and college in these past years, gone on trips and programs with new kids, each time having an opportunity to shed a past skin and start fresh.
A public record risks locking them into an identity they no longer want to own, or makes embarrassing moments available for all to see, like the proverbial naked toddler picture forever on a billboard over the BQE.
My older girl reads these columns regularly, checking up on what I’ve written about her and occasionally posting comments. The younger one generally avoids looking, deciding that ignorance may not be bliss but is better than the alternative and that someone will tell her if there’s something she really has to see.
As a parent, I love sharing about my girls, and not just the brags. Every day I face the unknown as my kids constantly change, grow and face their own ever-changing challenges. From our baby group to friends who I have regular breakfasts or coffee with, I continue to rely on support from others to figure out the infinite puzzles that are my daughters.
Still, I’m sympathetic to some of my girls’ concerns. I worry about being labeled just a dad, locked into a fixed identity that denies the other things I do and ways I see myself. I worry about my privacy. It’s so easy to share incredibly personal information when I’m bombarded by the most intimate details of celebrity, semi-celebrity, and everyday people’s lives all over the internet, newsstands, and cable channels founded on the premise that no personal humiliation is too great.
My daughters have only been really mad about something I’ve written once or twice, which I think is pretty good. There’s no objective line between respecting their privacy and self-image and sharing enough to make a point or communicate my experience except their own sense of discomfort.
Now that they’re 18 and 21 years old and will both be out of the house by fall, I have decreasing access to their lives as they spend less and less time at home in Brooklyn. They’re gaining more and more privacy as they retire from childhood.
Hopefully, retirement will be good for all of us.