When a father has a complaint to make about his son, all he has to do is take the boy aside and yell at him,
“What do you mean by getting home at three o'clock in the morning? Your mother was worried to death!”
“Twenty bucks? You want twenty bucks? My God, the way you spend my money, you could be the United States government.”
“A car of your own? Listen to him, will you? He's still wet behind the ears, and he wants a car of his own!”
This is the sort of thing that goes on every day. Sarcasm, grumbling, out-and-out rage — how else should a father in this modern world express his affection and concern for his own son?
But between a father and his daughter it isn't so easy. Because a father can't yell at his daughter, or wave his fist at her threateningly, or call her a good-for-nothing. More than one father has, of course. But he usually ends up with a terrible feeling of guilt over it. And then, when she smiles up at him and puts her hands on his shoulders and murmurs that pet name which he's always been a sucker for, the most determined father in the world is as helpless as a baby.
Such was the case with Dan Waxman.
His daughter Barbara — Bobby he called her, this was his favorite nickname for a girl — was his only daughter. Ever since she was old enough to cry or flutter her eyelashes, she had very little trouble getting her way with him. But she more than paid him back for this. When she was little she paid him back in laughter and high spirits, in showing him how much she enjoyed her life.
“Sarah,” he used to say to his wife, “what are we bringing up in this household, a little girl or a wild Indian?”
“A wild Indian!” Bobby used to shout out gleefully, and jump around the living room giving war whoops.
And now that she was almost grown up, she paid him back in quieter, more ladylike ways. She told him her secrets, the ones she wanted him to hear. She asked his opinion of her clothes and her hairdos. She even laughed at his jokes. Not out of diplomacy either, but heartily and spontaneously, because she thought they were funny and she liked to see him in a good mood.