The Greatest Dad and the Greatest Teen

According to a mug, hat and Father’s Day card I have received over the years (although sadly, no tie), I am the World’s Greatest Dad.

With the exception of Michael Scott, no one takes such statements seriously. Most fathers will, at some point, get at least one item from the “World’s Greatest Dad” collection. I don’t aspire to be the greatest dad in the world, or even in my little town. I aspire to nothing more than being the greatest dad in my home. When it comes to competing for the title of “Greatest Dad”, I wouldn’t be willing to put myself out there against the men in the local police drunk tank. I am, for the most part, content with my strengths and weaknesses. I do what I can, and what I lack my wife usually covers for me. And, to my knowledge there are no competitions of that sort. But there are other competitions. And my daughter found one.

Think back for a moment to High School. Think back on how difficult those years were. Now imagine a contest to determine who is really outstanding among high school students. I would sooner put myself up against Saint Joseph himself in the Greatest Dad competition than to be evaluated based on my high-school self.

That’s what my daughter did this past week. She went to a hotel filled with outstanding teens from across the nation. She put herself up against them in a contest. Her goal was to make the finals. No one from Wyoming had done it before. I like to think she missed it by the skin of her teeth. But, regardless of how close she came, she didn’t get there. 80% of the girls didn’t. Among the best and most outstanding teens in America – of which she is already one – she missed the top 20%. So did 80% of her pageant sisters.

She got up every morning at 6 am and biked ten miles. She worked with me every night for an hour or more on her talent. She put painful chemicals on her teeth to make them just as gleemy as they can be. They practiced questions and answers every day in her free time. It wasn’t quite enough. She’s among the top 50 outstanding teens in America, not the top 12. I’m ok with that. And I hope that she is, too.

Because this competition was the big time. There were girls with professional vocal trainers, and pageant gown designers, and interview coaches. For talent my daughter had her dad that was in a couple of choirs two decades ago. You get the idea. A talented and dedicated amateur was going up against professional caliber beauty queens.

(If you are curious how such things usually, go, here’s an account of a newspaper reporter training for a couple of weeks and then playing football during an NFL scrimmage. It didn’t go well. He lost yardage in every play in one scrimmage, and the NFL commissioner banned him from the next.)

My daughter, with only her wits and her talent, and her dedicated but amateur parents to guide her, managed to keep up with them. She didn’t win. But most of the girls didn’t win. She was good enough to look like she belonged. And that’s not nothing.

As for her rapidly passing tenure as a teenager, I can promise that, compared to me, she is doing a lot better at… well just about everything teen related than I did at that point in my life.

I could go on about all the awesome that is my oldest daughter. But a picture is worth a thousand words. So, here is 2000 words of collage to show how much more outstanding my daughter is at being a teen than I was. I give you, with full knowledge of the repercussions, senior pictures:

Not even the 80’s can explain everything wrong with that photo. I’m willing to own that. If you had told that geeky kid that some day his daughter would be among the nation’s elite teens, included and accepted by them, he would have told you to get lost and stop picking on him. Who’s more outstanding as a teen? Res ipsa loquitur (The thing speaks for itself.)

Ultimately, our teen years pass into adulthood, and then the real work (husband/wife, father/mother, worker/employer) begins. Hopefully, you manage to help others in any/all of those roles. As for my own teen years – I must not have been too bad as a teen. After all, I’m now the world’s greatest dad.

Pride may go before a fall. But I’m proud of what my daughter has done.. I’m proud of how hard she worked, how many mornings she didn’t turn off the alarm at dark-thirty, how well she smiles (even when she doesn’t particularly feel like it), her determination to cover as much of the expense herself as she could, her ability to wave in parades. All of that. Also, and I know I’ve mentioned it before, how much she cares for the people that everyone else overlooks. The professional pageant world is an elite world: money, networks, connections, quid-pro-quo. Not that the people aren’t good people. Not that they are not also caring. But my daughter stops whenever she sees someone being ignored. She’ll talk, make them feel special. She is, above all, loving.

And I can’t think of higher praise than that.

Right now, she’s on the final leg home from her grand adventure (covered in cheese ball dust and Cheez-its – inside joke, sorry)It’s has not been easy watching from the sidelines while your child puts herself out there. I’m so glad that I’ve had the chance though. Because I think she’s outstanding. And I think everyone should know it.

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