What I See When I Look at My Daughter

Have you ever looked at one thing and seen two? Have you ever stared at something so long that you could actually start to see its past as well as into its future? Is it possible to acquire some sort of second sight that, because you don’t know how to use it, causes you to catch only glimpses of other worlds and dimensions at random times, completely uncontrolled? I think it must, because that is what I see when I look at my daughter.

Ruby is seven, but only for two more days. On Sunday she will be eight years old, and something is happening, although I still can’t tell if it is happening to her, or to me. It’s probably both. I used to see her as she was at that present time, playing, whining, smiling, frowning, crying, laughing, but in the moment. I don’t know what’s going on these days. It’s as if she is on the cusp of a complete metamorphosis, and I mean this only in the best way. I can almost, if I squint hard enough, see her as an adult. I can see her face changing as the light hits it and I think, for the first time in our lives, that if she disappeared for a decade (a constant parental fear), I would never wonder what she looked like. I have seen it, and it is beautiful.

But then the light shifts, and I see her toddling around the room again. She will make a noise or a gesture, and suddenly I will see her as she once was, as the girl who used to ride around on my shoulders, and mispronounce words, and travel with me to New York every week for voice lessons. She literally transforms, if only for a moment and if only to my eyes, into her younger self, and then suddenly it is gone again and she is back to being almost eight.

Perhaps she does not literally transform. Perhaps my mind is playing tricks on me. Or maybe she is temporarily replaced by another her from an adjacent dimension. But as she turns her head gracefully and says something wise, she is suddenly in high school. I can see her, driving the car, hanging out with her friends, apologizing to me for something she said in anger, and falling in love. I never see the fights or the harsh words, although I know they will come, and this may be due to the blindness of a father’s love. Or it could just be the gift of the universe, that allows me to peek into the future, but bring only joy and no pain.

As I think about it, it is the lack of pain that lets me know that these visions are not real, or at the very least incomplete. When she suddenly reverts to herself at two, I see her in a time before doctors, before medication, before any of our moves, and before she truly knew life, in all of its messy wonder. I see her as she was, but I do not see the tantrums. I only see the happiness. What bliss it is to be able to travel backward and forward through the years, visiting and revisiting all of the best moments of my time with my daughter.

Whatever this phenomenon is, I do not think it will last for long. I can’t see my son the same way. He is a kid. Yes, there are a few lingering toddler-like traits that come through from time to time, but he is almost five. He is not nearly as grown up as he would like to think that he is. No, I believe my daughter is at some sort of magical stage of development, where the gates of the ages have opened up to allow me to see all that was and all that will be. She is fully a child, but I see the baby in her, and I see the woman. What a gift. Happy Birthday, Ruby. I love you.

Posted in Birthdays, Edward, Growing Up, Parenting, Ruby, Time.


  1. Boy, that’s wonderful, Tenor Dad. There is a universality in this feeling – moment, perhaps? – of being now and then and back and forward. It seems like a time sort of vertigo. You write well on it, with clarity and wisdom and heart. Thanks for this.

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