Point of No Return — Three years in, and I can't wait for the rest

Date Published: 
Nov. 10, 2017

It was three years ago this week that I was introduced to a person who would change my life forever. A person who would teach my heart to love in a way it has never experienced before, and would force me to want to be a better person at every turn. A person who I knew, from the very first instant I held her in my arms, that I would walk through walls of fire if it would prevent her from ever shedding a single tear.

And she literally pooped on me.

Not much has really changed in these last three years when it comes to my daughter, Riley. There are highs that rival any elation that has ever come my way in the past, and there are lows that feel like my soul is being pecked at by a drug-addled buzzard with vampire teeth. And there has been poop. Lots and lots of poop.

Of course, saying that nothing has changed over the last three years is not entirely true. Sure, we still have a lot of ups and downs, often from one minute to the next, but there has been remarkable change. And she continues to remind me that she’s a remarkable little girl.

I could go on and on about how much she has grown over the past three years, both physically and mentally. When she first came home she was but a lump of, well, lumpy stuff. But now she’s a walking, talking, climbing, singing, back-talking bundle of wonder and energy. But instead of getting into all that this week, I decided to celebrate Riley the Wrecker’s third birthday with a list of my favorite, and most infamous, Riley moments, characteristics and accomplishments over the years.

• I love how she has taken to her swimming lessons. She has been fortunate to have Miss Dana and Miss Cathy as her teachers over at Sea Colony, and she hasn’t only shown a ton of improvement, but I’ve also been impressed by how she has remained enthusiastic and motivated every week for nearly 18 months. A ton of the credit goes to her coaches for keeping it fun for her, and her mother for bringing her every week, but I have to give Riley a nod on that, too.

• One of my favorite Riley moments took place when she was about six months old. I was sitting on the living room couch, watching her scoot around on the floor on her hands and knees, and flinched when she banged her head into the leg of a chair. Now, I make it a habit to wait to see if she cries before I go to comfort her, and I was doing that very thing when a garment fell off the top of the chair and on to her head, covering her face. She pushed the garment up so she could see, looked up at the chair to take stock of where this fell from, and busted out laughing at herself. If I wasn’t already in love with that little girl, I was then.

• The girl is a scrapper. If she decides she wants something, one of two things is going to happen: Either she gets it, or she ends up in “Time Out.” By the way, the whole Time Out thing is starting to grow on me. I had thought it was kind of a new-age way out of having to punish your kids, but now I see the appeal. Riley hates it, and acts like she is being tortured for the two minutes she is required to sit in her special punishment chair. To me, if a kid hates it, the punishment is sound.

• This past Halloween was the first holiday that Riley was truly excited about leading up to the big day, and that was kind of awesome. Okay, it was more than awesome. Her fascination with all things “spooky” and trick-or-treat-related made me excited about Halloween again, and I haven’t felt that way since I was going to a Halloween party in my early 20s, and I knew there were going to be lots of girls...

But I digress.

Let’s just say Riley made it the best Halloween ever for me.

• She is studious, and much more studious than she lets on, which leads to surprises. She requires two books be read to her every night before she goes to sleep, at the threat of a nuclear meltdown, and then she busies herself with everything but paying attention to the book she is being read. One night, while flying on a solo mission of putting her to bed by myself, I opened one of her books and she began “reading” it. Nearly word for word, she began reciting the pages as I turned each one. She obviously wasn’t reading the writing in front of her, but she proved to me that she was always listening and paying attention, even if she doesn’t act like it.

That has forced me to change the way I watch sports in front of her. Or, at least, the words that come out of my mouth when I watch sports in front of her.

• She is kind to animals, and children smaller than her. She often treats me like a $4 sparring partner down by the docks, but she is remarkably gentle to animals and babies. Hey, as long as she picks on people her own size (or, say, 200 pounds heavier), I’ll take it.

• She will be our home’s IT person by the end of the year, with all due apologies to our current IT guy, and her godfather, Shaun Lambert.

The kid has the ability to grab my phone, push three things in less than two seconds, and have something happen on the screen that I have never encountered before. She has also figured out how to navigate YouTube on any Internet-ready device she can get her grubby little fingers on, and is beginning to try to master the Alexa on our kitchen counter.

So, basically, she learns more about technology every day, while her mother and I forget where we left our keys or water bottles. It’s only a matter of time before she takes over the house.

• In three years, she has changed my long-term goal in life from dying in my sleep with the scent of whiskey and bacon heavy in the air, to lasting as long as I can to enjoy every minute of her life that I can. It has been a ride.