Aside from that little tattoo incident involving my daughter, there was another event over Thanksgiving week that put my role as a parent into perspective.
The first evening our daughter was home, we were all sitting around the dining area table as she consumed a late dinner of arugula salad with dried cranberries. She told us about her college experience, eventually getting around to the various clubs across the campus. The usual suspects came up -- rap, film, art, whatever else kids think they're going to make money on one day -- but she had the idea of starting her own club.
Noticing that a lot of classrooms were empty from around 3:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon, she decided it would be a neat idea provide a space for kids from the surrounding grade schools to do homework in a quiet, supportive environment, with she and her fellow collegians providing help and mentoring along the way.
This, my wife and I responded, was a good thing. A very good thing indeed.
In just the first few months of college, our daughter has become much more globally-conscious. One of her classes, urban farming, has made her think about providing organic fruits and vegetables to city kids who otherwise wouldn't have access to nutritional food. While I can't recount her exact words, it was clear that she was becoming more aware of her place in the world, and that it was up to her to make a difference.
She seemed to be speaking mainly to her mom, so I quietly moved to the living room. It was then my daughter became quite emotional, wanting to clean up the mess that people have made of the world. She thanked her mom for raising her to be spiritually aware, and for feeding her a healthy, nutritional diet along the way while shunning junk food. It sounds trite the way I recount it here, but it was actually quite moving, almost overwhelmingly so.
As I sat there on the couch, I realized that I had nothing to do with any of this. It's rather humbling to reflect that in co-raising our daughter -- and being with her every day save a total of a week over the course of 18 years -- I had seemingly zero positive effect on her.
Not that I was a negative influence. I shaped her sense of humor and showed her old movies. Cooked a lot of great meals. But that evening, it appeared that anything of real substance, something to take into adulthood in a positive, world-changing manner, was her mom's doing. And that's OK. Somebody had to do it. And as our friends would attest, I sure couldn't.
But what the hell -- thanks to me, my daughter's become a Lionel Barrymore fan. That should count for something.