March 20 2003
Well we went to war with Iraq yesterday night. And I fell like daddy is going to war with me. When i went to my class today everything was fine and when we get home he bands me from the dining room! Then I was talking to mommy and I asked if daddy was in the kitchen and he thought I was going to say something about him and hes like if your going to lie about something don’t say anything. So I going on selective silence agaist him if he’s around I wont talk. I’ll even swear it!
I Elon Nadeen Smith will chose to be silent around Felton Lewis Smith. This is due to unfair treatment. If I shall break it, renew it.
For the first time in my life my Dad will be living in a different state than me. As he was unpacking boxes, he found one of my journals, and read the excerpt above to me over the phone. It is funny reading my thoughts, my Dad also had to try to force back a giggle or two to save me some embarrassment, but if I remember anything about my 11-year-old self (and no, I don’t mean the obviously gifted writer hidden behind some questionable grammar), it was that those feelings weren’t very funny at all, I thought my dad was my enemy.
I was an intelligent kid, but no matter how smart I thought was, Dad was always at least three steps ahead of me. As an adult I’ve come to better accept (emphasis on better… not completely accept) being strategically outmaneuvered, but as a kid everything was a competition that I needed to win. Who would win the board games on game nights, who would solve the riddle, who would figure out the end of the movie and ruin it for the rest of our family first (sorry guys)… I lost roughly 98% of the time. And, as if the constant humiliation of defeat wasn’t enough, there was another big reason I found myself “at war” with my Dad.
He was the only person who challenged me. I thought of myself as (and was often treated like) the golden child that would be the most successful person in the family. But, on top of being intelligent, I was a dramatic, mean, emotional, introverted, and insecure little girl. Because of this, my Dad and I didn’t have the traditional cozy, cute father-daughter relationship like the one I felt that he had with my sister or like those that you see on TV. Being coddled was the opposite of what I needed. Looking back on it now, it was as if everyone could see my potential and thought I would “get there” regardless, but my Dad was the only one to realize that I had no chance of “getting there” at my current state and it was his task to get me where I needed to be… So he did.
One of the most distinct memories I have was from middle school while trying to do some advanced math homework that I just did not understand. After multiple failed attempts, I asked my Dad for help (one of many perks that comes with having a Chemist for a father). He had me re-read the problem that I had read 100 times looking for some hidden secret message, and then he explained how he would solve it. But, unfortunately for me, he did not give me the answer. I sat at the dining room table and I cried for what felt like hours before I finally got frustrated and focused enough to solve the problem. At that point he came back and said, “No one is ever going to give you the answer. I might not even have the answers to give to you. But, I can teach you how to think.”
The only thing 11-year-old me could see at the time I wrote in my journal that day was that my Dad hated everything about me, but in reality we all know he never hated me at all. He loved me enough to teach me lesson after lesson, because he understood that later down the road I would need to be a different kind of person than the one I may have been becoming.
He taught me how to be confident enough to get where I had the potential to be in life. He taught me how to solve problems I had never faced before. He taught me to handle criticism and how to never let anyone control my emotions. But, most importantly, he taught me how to be kind and loving in order to maintain one of the most important things in life, my relationships with others. I didn’t have any of those things before, but no period of selective silence would stop my Dad from instilling those things in me.
As I read my other journal entries, I realize how much I’ve grown since then in more ways than my height and age. I hope he knows his hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Also, I hope he knows he taught me one of the biggest lessons of them all:
If I am ever blessed with a family, all of my children will be different. They will have various gifts and personalities, but I will never compare them to each other nor make one feel more special than the other. But, I will need to have a unique relationship with them all to address their varying needs. Some lessons will be tough to teach (especially when we face tough times in life), and if my children are anything like me, they might fight back and/or not really understand them at all at the moment, but I won’t give up… and one day I’ll look back and remember why.