Warning - this one's gonna be all over the place...
The March issue of GQ featured a profile on Bill Ray Cyrus (of "Achy-Breaky Heart" fame) which detailed, in equal parts, a heart-breaking (no pun intended) and searing look at the toll of being Hannah Montana's daddy. It's here if you want to read it.
In the piece, Cyrus acknowledges that he played a part in allowing his daughter to become a massively popular and now -- arguably -- out-of-control star with the "Hannah Montana" show, concerts, albums, etc. Miley Cyrus, his daughter, seems to be well on her way to becoming another burnt out child star fallen victim to partying, booze, etc. Think Lindsay Lohan with a Nickelodeon instead of Disney pedigree. The story is equally sympathetic to, and scathing in its critique of, the Cyrus clan, with Daddy Billy Ray seeming despondent that his little girl is gone and may never come back to him.
For a while, this story was the most read and most emailed piece on GQ.com (which is where I read it), probably due to the "car-wreck" factor of the story and the easy jokes about Billy Ray and his rise to fame (and infamy) on the wave of his one hit, his acid wash jeans and spectacular mullet (he likes the term "Kentucky Waterfall"). But it resonated with me for an entirely different reason.
Billy Ray is a father. He sent his little girl out into the world because he thought it was best for her talent, and he believed in her. Now his daughter is in trouble, under the sway of folks who care only for her money (and don't care about her), and he knows it's partially his fault. And he doesn't know what to do.
In the GQ piece, Billy Ray talks about how he thought he had everything under control when he and his wife made the decision to let his daughter become a TV star. They thought the family bubble was strong enough to withstand the pressures and temptations of fame... but it wasn't, and now they have a daughter who, at 18, is essentially estranged from him, beholden to people who care about her as a commodity and not a person. His lament is painful, moreso because he doesn't hide the fact that he doesn't know what to do.
Now, don't misunderstand me -- I am in no way saying that the clan Cyrus are victims (they knowingly chose this for their child), nor do I think my daughter will someday be a huge TV star and pop icon that will cause me the same regret.
It goes without saying that you never stop being a parent. Even when your children grow up and become parents themselves, they're still someone's child. And you never go to sleep at night without saying a prayer that your child will be happy, loved and safe in the world.
You always think that your choices will be made in the best interests of your child. If they want to play soccer or take ballet, you weigh the pros and cons and then let them do what they want. If they want something bigger -- like to be a TV star or pop singer -- you do the same thing.
And it's struggle -- you want to let them fly, but you need to protect them. You want them to grow up and experience all that life can give them, but you also want them to remain little forever, protected inside the bubble of your family.
It's the parents' dilemma: Love them and nurture them to follow their dreams while secretly praying that their dream won't take them beyond what they can handle or control. And all the while you're longing for them to remain your little girl (or boy), who looks at you adoringly and depends on you for everything.
I know that someday my daughter will grow up, spread her wings, and leave the nest. Maybe it will be for college in a far-off city, maybe for a job, maybe for a husband... or maybe all three. And I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me sad to think of that now, even though she's barely 14 months.
Someday when she's older, she'll read this and think I worried too much about something that wasn't a big deal. But to me, it's everything. And when I came to that realization, that's when I knew I was a Parent.