Being the father of a teenage daughter is a challenge. Gone are the early days when she would climb onto my lap and we would watch a princess movie for the 935th time. The days when I could buckle her in the passenger seat and drive her to purchase toys and cheap costume jewelry have long since passed. Today her afternoons are filled with school studies, after-school activities, friends, manicures, and a boyfriend. I’ve dropped a bit in the batting order. It’s OK, I understand that. I was probably the same, if not worse, at that age. Nevertheless, I love my job as a dad.
I take solace in the hope that someday soon she’ll understand that all of the advice and experience I have been sharing is true and came from hard-earned, real-life lessons. I also look forward to the day when she’s not embarrassed to go to the movie theatre with her parents again.
My daughter is smart, witty, happy, healthy, and simply gorgeous inside and out. She has a strong moral center (maybe a father’s most hoped-for asset in a daughter). She knows who she is and what she wants. She is a good friend to others and is liked by her peers. If God would have given me a pen and a piece of paper on the day she was born and asked me to write my version of the “perfect daughter,” I wouldn’t have had the nerve to ask for half of what my daughter has become. Anything I could have imagined or hoped for in divining the perfect daughter would have been aiming too low compared to the end result. I am blessed.
In a few weeks she’ll don a cap and gown and be presented with a piece of paper that tells me that this phase of the parenting gig is finished. A few weeks after that she’ll get into her slightly banged up vehicle and take a few closets-full of clothing and her poor driving record off to college where we’ll start the next phase.
It went too fast. Way too fast.
It seems like yesterday that I was waking her from afternoon naps and making her a glass of Ovaltine. She loved drinking Ovaltine. I wasn’t very good at playing with dolls, but she had a pretend kitchen with pots and pans and she and I could cook up some wicked imaginary food. She has an amazing imagination. She doesn’t tap into it like she did in the days before senior math and government class stole her attention and focus. But it’s there and I’m predicting we will see it again, soon.
Not too long ago I was tucking her into bed and making up stories about the misadventures of Fred the Red Frog. Today we are focusing on senior prom and how we are going to feed 50 kids at our house when the forecast calls for an 80% chance of rain. I miss Fred.
I can’t focus on this upcoming prom for thinking of all of the magical moments that have occurred in our family over the past 18 years. Parenting has been an embarrassment of riches for my wife and me. It hasn’t been easy— not by a long shot— and we still have a soon-to-be-14-year old waiting in the wings. But I don’t think I would have written the script any differently.
Most who read this column know that my father died when I was six-years old. I always wanted to be a dad. As early as 15-years old I looked forward to being a father one day. I would have to wait another 20 years for my daughter to be born, but the timing was perfect. I had already spent 10 years opening restaurants and would be able to dedicate the time that was needed to raising a family. I virtually quit working night shifts the day before she was born. It was the best parenting decision I ever made.
I milked every last second out of parenthood, and it still went too fast. I take solace in the fact that some of her most exciting days lie ahead. The freshman-year college experience is singular and nothing quite like it ever happens again in one’s life. I look forward to many days of attending movies with my daughter, and cooking together (this time using real pots and pans), and I especially look forward to seeing the woman that she will become. I can’t help but think that God has many great things planned for her future. I will watch with pride and pray, yet again, that it doesn’t go too fast.
In the trattorias and osterias on the western coast of Sicily the day’s fresh, raw seafood catch is often displayed on ice in the dining room. One picks their specific fish and the server takes to back to the kitchen where it is prepared. There is usually an antipasta display and several vegetable courses served buffet style. Caponata is often among the offerings. Everyone prepares caponata differently. This preparation was inspired by my friend Annagloria, who is a native of Florence, but a lover of all things Sicilian.
1 each Red bell pepper, large diced
1 each Yellow bell pepper, large diced
1 each Large red onion, large diced
1 rib Celery, sliced
¼ cup Green olives, rough chopped
2 TB Capers
¼ cup Pine nuts
¼ cup Raisins
½ cup Extra virgin olive oil
½ cup Red wine vinegar
1 TB Sugar
1 each 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, with juice
1 tsp Kosher salt
½ tsp Fresh ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375.
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.