Misplaced Dad On A Pre-Teen Shopping Trip

20140411_210558Today is officially my daughter’s twelfth birthday, but we celebrated it over the weekend.  From our observations, as well as by asking her directly, the thing she wanted the most for her birthday was clothes.   This was not surprising in the least, as my little girl, who’s biggest care in the world used to be wondering when her hair would be long enough to be put in a ponytail, has transformed (seemingly) overnight into a young woman who stares endlessly into a mirror primping and futzing with her hair, even applying some makeup before heading to the bus stop.

The likes of a pre-teen are difficult to get a handle on, so my wife and I were skeptical that we could successfully purchase anything our daughter would actually approve.  After trading several ideas that fell to the floor with the soft thud of failure, a sentence flew out of my mouth before I could fully comprehend what I was suggesting:

“Why don’t we give her a shopping spree for her birthday?”

Vonnie’s face stared back at me with an expression I couldn’t quite put a label to.  An odd combination of indecision, confusion, with just a touch of, “That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”  But after a few moments the lines on her face softened into acceptance and even approval.  When we told Tori about our idea, she flung herself from the couch hugging both of us wildly.

On Friday night we entered the mall.  Vonnie had the agreed upon shopping spree limit in cash in her purse.  We told our daughter to choose wisely, as when the cash was gone, her shopping spree was over.  Tori bounced through the door, literally bubbling with excitement.

However, with each store we exited empty handed, that excitement deflated.  My daughter has entered that period of life where social circles and what you wear become very important.  She is also in that awkward stage where her mind is maturing faster than her body.  In her mind she is a young woman, but her body is still that of a little girl, and that frustrates her to no end.

After several stores, I even got the impression that I was hindering the entire operation.  As she scanned through the racks at one store, she held up a shirt to examine it.  Our eyes met, and her face broke into one of uneasiness that I could only interpret as she felt weird that her father was standing in the same store as she shopped for clothes.

It got worse.  My wife suggested they check in a particular store that specialized in beachwear.  She quipped something about it being summer soon, and having some beach-like shorts and shirts would be fun.  I stopped at the doorway to examine a 6 foot sign with the words, “Sun’s out, buns out” plastered across a woman’s bikini clad bottom.  At that moment in time, I was sure it was the worst marketing idea ever designed. I waited outside.

They quickly exited, again empty handed.  I could see the disappointment growing in my daughter’s eyes.

At the next store, I again told my wife I would wait outside.  I expected them to exit quickly, but as time lingered on I suspected the result at this store was going to be different.  I sat outside on a bench cradling my hands reliving countless Daddy/Daughter shopping trips at the clothing store for little girls that stood just two doors down from where I sat.  I remembered a younger Tori, coming out of the dressing room adorned in sparkly shirts with smiley faces or phrases like, “Daddy’s Girl.”

“Going to Barnes and Noble,” was the text I sent to my wife.  Once in the bookstore I drowned myself in a sea of self-pity and BBQ books.

When I met them, Tori was again bouncing as she walked towards me holding a bag.  On our way out of the mall, we decided to stop and grab something to eat.  Tori ordered her usual, a mix of Sprite and grenadine which we commonly called a kiddie cocktail.  I stole some of her French fries, and she gave me her patented angry eyes look followed by a giggle.  We joked about the napkin being the perfect dress for her purple school ruler she had named Lola.  She asked if I wanted to see what she had picked out.  I nodded eagerly, as she cleared half of our table and described each piece as she laid it down.  I took pictures of her making goofy faces, as we both laughed.  Suddenly, she was my little girl again.

Happy birthday, Tori.  Grow up gently, for your daddy’s sake.

About Travis

26 Responses to “Misplaced Dad On A Pre-Teen Shopping Trip”

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  1. Great post Travis! Our only daughter is six and know situations like this are not that far off, even though I’d like to fool myself into thinking it’s far off. That said, I’m actually a big fan of the shopping spree idea. I’ve done it a few times with my wife when I’m at wits end what to get her and always goes over well. Happy Birthday Tori!

    • Travis says:

      I still think the shopping spree was a good idea….but if I had to do it over again, I’d offer to take her and a friend to the mall to go shopping. She did was asked to do a similar thing awhile back with a friend and they had A BLAST. Then I could do what I do best – take them out for a very vanilla shake at Cold Stone. A dad has to understand his place in his daughter’s life. Shopping is no longer my place, ice cream on the other hand, totally my place. 🙂

  2. Happy Birthday Tori! I can related Travis. I have two fifteen year-olds in my house. I just ran into a similar situation just a few weeks ago. We were planning to see the new Captain America movie. When deciding on a day, my daughter came to me and said she would like to see it with her friends. I agreed. I still had an opportunity with my sons, well my oldest went out with his friends opening weekend and saw it too. I spoke with my youngest son who’s 11 and he agreed I could take and some friends as long as i didn’t sit with them. 🙂

    • Ugh, Brian. I know what you mean. Maddie just went to see Captain America with her childhood bffs (both boys/brothers) and a dear girl friend of hers. It was WAY too much like a double date for my liking, even thought the kids would’ve been totally grossed out if I had mentioned that. All of us parents agreed that one of the dads would be there to chaperone. That helped. A Little. 🙂

      • Travis says:

        My son hasn’t discovered girls yet….well, at least not to the effect of meeting them places. All of the drop offs I’ve done have been with his guy friends. although I suppose I really have no idea what goes on AFTER I drive out of the theater parking lot. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      My son is 15, and I’ve missed many an opportunity to see great movies together with my son. We have the same tastes in movies. When he was younger we would go occasionally – we should have done it more often. Now, whenever I ask, he’d rather go with his friends. At least he still likes throwing the baseball around with me. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Awwww… you’re such a great Dad, Travis. Every teenage girl loves to hear the words shopping spree. 🙂 My oldest turned 10 this year and while she’s still young enough that Mom is still sorta cool, I know she’s entering the state when she will want more and more independence. And it will be hard! Glad your daughter eventually struck gold with her birthday present and then gave you the best present of all – still being Daddy’s little girl.

    • Travis says:

      She still has her moments, Shannon – sometimes she doesn’t want me around, other times I will be informed that she is available for snuggling. I take every opportunity I get…..

  4. Love it. The pre teen years are hard, but I never thought about how tough they must’ve been on my dad :/ I remember having that frustration of feeling more mature than my body was.

    • Travis says:

      It’s interesting to be on the “parent” side of the fence, and then recall being the kid in the same equation years ago. I can’t even count how many times I told my parents they just didn’t understand….they understood alright, perfectly!

  5. Awww.. What a sweet little story 🙂

  6. Travis, I can just imagine the joy you must’ve felt at the joy on Tori’s face when you’d picked out the perfect gift. Super cool, my friend. And you are a wise daddy to be able to sense that it was time for you to skidaddle. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      A dad has to know his limitations….even if they’re a moving target, Laurie – and at her age it’s definitely a moving target. LOL.

  7. “her face broke into one of uneasiness that I could only interpret as she felt weird that her father was standing in the same store as she shopped for clothes.” bahahahaha! I can picture her saying, “dah-YUD!” 🙂 That was such a sweet story Travis. I can only image how wonderful and terrifying at the same time it must be to watch your little girl grow up!

    • Travis says:

      She actually said that, Tonya. There was a point where I was trying to cheer her up by being silly and showing her stuff that was obviously toddler clothes. She smiled a little. Then I found a few shirts that I honestly thought she would like and showed them to her. That’s when I got the look, followed by an eyeroll, concluding with the “Dah-YUD!” It was at that point I realized I was officially done. 🙂

  8. Awwww….. Being a teenager is so hard. It’s a time in your life when it really feels like it matters what other people think. I’m glad she found some clothes =)

    • Travis says:

      I look back to my teenage years, and remember how much stress is put on being accepted, what I wore, what kind of car my parents drove, who my friends were, etc, etc. All of those things seemed SO important then, and seem SO insignificant now!

  9. Kim says:

    I can already see that day and am not looking forward to pre-teen shopping. It’s already hard enough with my very opinionated 7 year old. I just hope she keeps her modest taste in clothes. I feel like lots of stuff even for my daughter’s age looks like hooker clothes. Thanks Miley Cyrus!

    • Travis says:

      I hear ya, Kim….some of the shorts my daughter owns are super short – but she’s just a little girl so it doesn’t even register. But it probably should, because as soon as she starts to develop if she expects to wear the same style…..oooooooooh boy. #nothappening #shouldbenippingthatinthebudnow

  10. You are the sweetest Dad EVER!! Happy Birthday Tori!!

  11. I gotta say this. Something must have crawled into my eyes when I read, “I remembered a younger Tori, coming out of the dressing room adorned in sparkly shirts with smiley faces or phrases like, ‘Daddy’s Girl.'”

    My daughter is only 3.5 now, but I’m trying to cherish every moment I have with her as I know she will only grow up faster than I can image. If I can freeze time, I will.

  12. That’s one fear I have about having kids – from every parent I’ve talked to, time just absolutely flies by! I’m glad your daughter had a good birthday and shopping spree! Looks like she got stuff at Express – great choice.

    • Travis says:

      The worst thing is that time accelerates as it goes on, DC. It’s like being dropped in the middle of a 3 ringed circus. There’s so much going on at once and you cannot process it all at once. By the time you focus on one thing, the act is over and something new starts. But it’s such an amazing ride – I wouldn’t trade being a father for anything!

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