If you were a holiday, which one would your kids say you were, and why? My 13-year-old daughter, Lindsay, answered: “You would be Halloween, Dad, because you’re scary when you get mad.”
Lindsay’s reply was part of her Christmas gift to me last month. She had been stumped about what to give me, so she settled on a little “What I Love about You” book. The most creative part was that she had to fill in the blank for 50 reasons why she loves me. The book was intended for a romantic couple, not a child-parent relationship, which added to the difficulty. But that did not stop her Mad Lib prowess (and budding writing skills) from turning the gift into the most unique I’ve received in years.
The first few entries cover the usual pleasantries — she thanks me for my support, advice, and jokes. But gradually her freshly minted teen mind can’t resist some gentle snark. As one line says, “I love how talented you are at … playing the piano. Remember when I used to give you lessons. Lol #yikes.” (I am terrible at playing piano, and she found me unteachable.)
Then, the snark grows.
I have to admit, however, that I was smitten with her acute observations, even as the book turns from a love letter to a strange type of roast or ingratitude journal. As she states, “I love to watch you … get hurt when nobody notices your haircut hahaha #sorry #oopsies”; “I love the sound of your … laugh when you can’t stop laughing at something that really isn’t funny”; “You give the best … lectures lol At first I didn’t know the point, and I still don’t”; and “I love to … get on your nerves when you’re already mad.”
Before this mockumentary of my parenting makes Lindsay appear truly ungrateful, I should add that these backhanded compliments are sandwiched between smiley faces, happy hashtags, and loving statements like “I would love to create a … room full of Snickers for you because I know how much you like them.” The mix of sweet and sour makes for a roller-coaster reading experience, which mirrors parenting itself. It’s also gratifying to read statements like “I love how you love … us” and “I believe we’d make a great … writing team. We both love it!”
My favorite line is Reason No. 23, where Lindsay writes “I believe the world needs your unique … fear of a house fire (you are very paranoid lol, but that’s okay).” In just a few words, she captures how closely a child observes a parent (for better or worse), but also how a maturing teenager begins to distinguish herself from her parents. And it’s so specific that I had to ask my brother’s kids if he has the same irrational fear. They laughed and said “yes” emphatically! (We blame our own parents.)
Other comic highlights of the book include “If you were a color, you’d be … red because of that one time I stabbed you with that sharp wooden stake #oops”; “I love how you never get tired of my … constant complaints about Hot Dog Heaven closing #sosad #ugh”; and “I love to … drag you to the store so you can buy me a million diaries that I’ll never use.” Also funny (and impressive) was how Lindsay handled a potential Electra moment due to the book’s intended audience of lovers. Where the prompt says “I love to kiss your … ,” Lindsay fills in “umm nothing because you’re my dad and that would be weird LOL.”
So next time your family needs ideas for gift-giving, think about writing down the many reasons you love each other. Just be ready for quite a ride.