I’ve always been a pretty good daddy, I think.
I mean, I’ve always loved to spend time with my kids, getting them to laugh at my funny faces and the Pull My Finger bit that still slightly annoys my wife after 16 years, but makes the kids laugh until they can barely breathe. I loved being daddy; digging through the dirt for worms with three-year-olds, pushing them on the swing just high enough to make them squeal and laughing at them because they can’t figure out which hand the It’s really hidden in.
I stopped being only daddy on Tuesday, April 20, 1999. The events that occurred that day at Columbine High affected me deeply. I was home from work with the flu, and watched the horrible tragedy unfold. My oldest daughter was then three years old, and I couldn’t stop thinking of her. How the actions of those two kids—monsters, sure, but still kids—changed her future forever. They changed how I will view the friends she makes over the years, and the groups that she (and her younger siblings) will join. I’ll nervously eye-up each school they attend to make sure that all the necessary safety requirements are there, and be hyper-observant about possible bullying behavior from classmates.
Sure, those are all things a parent should do, I agree. But since that day in 1999 I do them in an obsessive manner. With an urgent diligence which just didn’t seem that necessary before.
That anxiety changed me, too. Because the behavior doesn’t really fit the term daddy to me.
It’s more like Father.
I’m saddened by this eighth anniversary of the Columbine tragedy, and that the incident seems to have sparked a generation of similar events in public schools, private schools and now higher education. But as my kids progress through those academic systems, I can’t help but be angry at the changes that are the result: the heightened security, the transparent book-bags, armed guards and on-site police. Plus, the fear. That always-present, ever-gripping fear…
And because even though they still call me daddy, I’m just not that guy anymore.