“Baby!” by jen_rab is licensed under CC BY 2.0

My daughter started out as a little black and grey splotch on a small square of white paper. It was what back then passed for an ultrasound.

There was a small arrow superimposed on the piece of paper pointing to the splotch that was my daughter to distinguish her from all the other splotches in the picture. She has changed a lot since that picture was taken. For one thing, she is less splotch-like and she doesn’t require an arrow to distinguish her from her surroundings in pictures.

It is amazing and sad to think how quickly the splotch turned into a little baby, who turned into a little girl, who turned into a teenager and then into a grown person. Staring at the splotch in the ultrasound, I got to thinking how great it would have been if, instead of just an arrow, the paper came with a bunch of warnings and advisories:

Warning: In roughly a year, you will spend a small fortune buying this splotch a bunch of Christmas presents just to watch her ignore every last one of them and play all day with a fifty-cent wooden spoon her grandmother handed her.

Be Advised: One morning, in about three years, while you and this splotch are driving down the highway the splotch will point a half-inch long finger at a blue, orange and purple horizon and say “Look, Daddy! Someone painted the sky.” You will start to explain to the splotch that the colors actually come from how the sunlight hits the clouds and that no one actually painted the sky, but you stop yourself when you realize the splotch is right.

Warning: By the time this splotch is eight, by pure osmosis you will know every lyric to every Spice Girls song ever recorded. You will also be able to repeat large chunks of dialogue verbatim from several Disney movies. You will also catch yourself in idle moments humming Barney the Dinosaur songs. On the upside, you will get to play with many of the splotches’ toys such as her Etch-A-Sketch until the splotches’ mother gets involved when the splotch tells her “Daddy won’t give it back to me.”

Advisory: You have a job opportunity for a life-changing amount of money, but you are not sure you can do it. It is a risk and you have a family. You decide you will call the interviewer the next day and tell her you decided to pass. That very evening you and the splotch are at the playground. She is trying to climb up the slide part of the slide, but she keeps sliding back down. You tell the splotch that she can’t climb up the slide part of the slide. The splotch looks you in the eyes and tells you in splotch grammar “Daddy. I don’t know that I can do it, but I know that I can try.” You stare at the splotch and watch as she casually gets back to trying to climb up the wrong end of the slide. Her words repeat themselves in your head: I don’t know that I can do it, but I know that I can try. The next day you go to the interview. You get the job; it all works out and the rest is history.

Be Advised: Roughly twelve years from now this splotch will inform you that every fellow splotch in school has a cell phone and she, unfit parent that you are, does not. The splotch assures you she will perish if she does not acquire one. You take out a second mortgage to pay for the phone, a decorative phone cover and other absolutely essential accessories. You will go through the same drill over the years regarding something called “Ugg” Boots, some French sounding purse that to the untrained eye looks like every other purse on the planet but to the splotch eye is more precious than the Holy Grail and a few other items that, unless acquired, the splotch will dry up and fade away. You will eventually find it is easier to simply hand over your credit card, curl up into a fetal position and suck your thumb.

Be Advised: As this splotch grows up, her attitude toward you will change. In the span of a few years, you will morph from being the greatest human on earth to the most embarrassing of God’s creations. You will be repeatedly reminded, sometimes kindly – sometimes not so kindly, that “things don’t work like that anymore, Dad.” You will be assured everything has changed since when you were the splotches’ age (back when wooly mammoths stilled roamed the earth). At these times, you will repeatedly remind yourself that you love this splotch. It will become your mantra.

Warning: You will often sit on the sidelines helpless and watch life happen to the splotch. Not all endings will be happy endings. The splotch will endure her share of slings and arrows. Some worse than others. The most you can do is be there for her. That and pray for her. And, on a few occasions, pretend you are secretly not glad she broke up with the boyfriend she is crying over.

Be Advised: People and circumstances will be unfair to this splotch. You will want to get back at them somehow, these people who dare to treat your splotch this way. But you can’t. You have to step aside and let the splotch handle things for herself while you fantasize about what you would do if you get the offender alone in a room.

Of course, our splotch didn’t come with warnings. Neither did her sister and brother. Still, we somehow managed to turn out three law abiding citizens with good work ethics who are willing to come home and see their parents from time to time. None of them have splotches of their own yet, but when they do, I kind of hope they all have at least one girl and Ugg boots come back into fashion.