I spent the next day at the library. Research was key. If i was going to be both father and mother to my daughter, I was going to need to be better prepared. I haunted the women’s self help section with shame, avoiding the gaze of the librarians as I checked out a handful of titles. I needed some new understanding of what it was to be a woman, I needed to approach the world trying to understand what Hazel was going through.
She thought it was hilarious.
‘That’s Life!?’ she asked incredulously, coming out for breakfast one morning. Halfway between my coffee and another bite of toast – and trying desperately to prove that I wasn’t affected by the cover page sob story, I shrugged nonchalantly and promised to finish the story and have a proper cry later. I closed the magazine.
‘It’s got good puzzles.’ I defended myself, indicating my ‘cover pen’ which had somehow rolled halfway down the table with the cap still on. She didn’t believe me. I finished the last of my toast, poured her a milo. She sat down to breakfast with a smile, and for just a moment – it felt like things were working.
‘Yeah, sure Dad.’ She rolled her eyes and we both laughed. Around her toast she rambled on about school work, teachers and the dramas between her friends. I gave advice as best I could, recalling the gems I’d learned from the library and my intensive study of trashy womens’ magazines. It seemed to do the trick. She continued smiling, but lingered at the table a moment.
‘Bus’ll be here soon, Haze.’ I reminded her. She nodded, but stayed.
‘I know, um. Dad…?’ she started hesitantly, shoving her hands in her pockets. Her eyes stopped meeting mine, she seemed to be looking more at the ground than at anywhere else. ‘My grade is going on a camp. To Canberra. I know it’s expensive, and it’s for a full week, but I really want to go…’ she finally met my eyes.
I didn’t know what to say. I tried to recall everything I’d learned again, but nothing came back to me. I didn’t want her to go. Not for a whole week. But everything I’d read had a lot to say about clipping wings, and how it shouldn’t be done. I was already feeling anxious as I swallowed hard, shifted the plate about in front of me.
‘Of course you can go.’ I replied, simultaneously making her day – and destroying mine.