My daughter informed me of something tonight that I’d never really thought about.
She told me that I, and my wife when she was alive, both gave her something very meaningful: an opinion.
Now, that may seem a bit odd or even slightly self-aggrandizing, but it’s not. You see, we never inflicted an opinion on our daughter and I, for one, never forced mine on her unless it was for her own good. It’s pretty interesting to think about, Abbi, even as a 3 or 4-year-old kid, wouldn’t accept that she couldn’t be part of “adult conversation.” Part of that was bad. When her mother, who loved to express opinions about others sometimes (sometimes, not always, she wasn’t a bad person don’t get that opinion) she didn’t want Abbi around to then repeat that opinion.
But what we did do, something that was honestly second nature to us, was let her have one. Well, not just have an opinion, we let her express it . . . and accepted her opinion as worthwhile.
Kids, you see, are smarter than we give them credit. You can tell me I’m wrong all you want, but the reality is you’d be wrong yourself. Abbi grew up to be smart, certain, confident, and willing to stand by her morals, her opinions, her thoughts and her values regardless of the situation. Tonight, she informed me that our raising her to believe that her opinion counted – because it did – helped her to become what she is today.
Is she finished growing? No, she’s not. Will she change later? Yes.
But at her core, the days of my reading aloud to her, using a different voice for every character of the book Drummer Hoff and memorizing How the Grinch Stole Christmas were all big parts of her upbringing. They allowed her to see it was okay to act like someone else or have fun with material in front of you. You can make a fort and say “hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat” with full authority and verve.
When Abbi auditioned for her college drama department she told them how her father would read books with a different voice for each character. She said how she knew the Grinch by heart and could read the Drummer Hoff book by heart before she could read because how we spent so much time on each page. When they said she was a “born actor” she informed them she was born, she just was encouraged and allowed to do what she loved. To me, they’re the same thing, but not everyone encourages that feeling.
Abbi is now all but grown up. I really can’t say I’d be able to do a better job with her today than I did. Most of what I did raising that little girl was instinct, imprinted in my DNA by two wonderful parents of my own.
Still . . . you wonder when you let them go, as I prep for morning when I put her on a plane, alone, to visit her grandparents in Nebraska, whether you’ve done a good job or not. Today, just for a few hours, she informed me herself that we had.
But then, that’s her opinion.