My niece is very nice. She says such sweet things. We’ve watched each other growing up. Me as her auntie’s English husband forever shy; her as a hardworking student.
At out Istanbul wedding twenty years ago, she became our accidental bridesmaid. That was my doing; she must’ve been about seven, and I insisted we buy her a fancy white dress, knowing her parents were living through hard times.
Now she’s a qualified teacher, confident and brave. When she greeted me on our arrival earlier, she felt moved to sing my praises. Though I know I don’t deserve them, I just smiled. “Tell that to our dear daughter,” I laughed, “she will tell you I’m the worst dad in the world.”
Two young ladies who have watched me closely, with differing intensity over different periods of time. Perhaps our daughter offers the truest critique, no holds barred. Teenagers don’t filter their opinions through diplomacy; they just say it as they see it.
So these days I’m always angry, and an ignoramus who doesn’t understand anything. A less flattering evaluation than the one proffered by our niece, but perhaps it is true. Certainly I’m more likely to defer to our daughter’s critique, rebuking myself for these shortcomings, than take seriously our niece’s glowing assessment.
Perhaps the true measure will be asking our daughter’s opinion again in her mid-twenties. Will anything have changed by then? Will she at last see some good in me? Only time will tell. Who knows what the next decade will bring?