Alex Love at Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science

Alex at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science

An Ode To My Daughter, On Her 11th Birthday

 

I had very little interest in becoming a father. 

 

And who could blame me? My relationship with my own father was tempestuous at best, as his relationship with his father had been. Family dysfunction seemed like an heirloom to be passed down from generation to generation. I was terrified of the possibility that I might slip into this pattern, whether in spite of or because of my self.

 

Besides, by my late 20s I had a life I’d always dreamed of. I was managing a network of 15 publications that shared the editorial my staff produced; freelancing for Rolling Stone and Tower Pulse; contributing to books on music; being flown to NYC and LA to interview A-list celebs; hanging out with Willie Nelson and running into legends like Johnny Cash at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons; and getting incredible press trips to Alaska, Costa Rica and South Africa. So why on earth would I want a kid to hold me down?

 

But I was also married, and had been since I was 23. I had hoped that having a child would help solve some of the problems between us. It didn’t. But what it did do was even more extraordinary…

 

Alex Love, 3 Days Old

Alex @ 3 Days Old

 

I’d taken care of my twin brother and sister (who were nearly 9 years younger than me) often as babies. But nothing prepared me for the feeling I had when my daughter, Alexandra, arrived. The moment the nurses put her into my hands, I literally began weeping with joy, and I didn’t stop for 10 minutes, enraptured by the wrinkly beauty of this miracle I had helped to create.

 

From the instant I first held her, I felt as if the me that had been was broken, cast aside like the skin of a molting snake. A new me was born than day– better, stronger, less selfish and more responsible– and I knew that I would never be the same. I stopped going to concerts all the time, because being there for her bedtime was much more important. I stopped traveling as much, because I didn’t want to miss any of her major development milestones.

 

Perhaps more importantly, I started seeing the world through fresh eyes: Hers. For a kid, everything in nature is a wonder of discovery. A flower is a miracle. A lick on the face from a dog is distilled, liquid joy. Sunshine is awe-inspiring. Splashing in water is rapturous. Quacking ducks are mesmerizing in their sheer animal magnetism. We traveled twice in her first year– to St. George and Sanibel Island, Florida– and I had so much fun I couldn’t wait for her to grow up so we could have more adventures together.

 

Alex and Gladys Love

Alex, Age 3, With My Beloved Grandmother

 

Unfortunately my marriage to her mom didn’t last, and at the age of 35 I found myself separated and struggling, both personally and professionally. A tragic long-distance relationship with a woman in Toronto left me miserable and in debt, and my career suffered from my lack of focus and the gradual decline of the print industry. I often felt lost and alone when Alex was with her mom, but when she came back to me (by this point we had 50/50 custody) it was like a burst of sunshine breaking through the darkest night.

 

I eventually found my own joy in performing improv comedy, so my beloved grandmother would come over almost every weekend to babysit. During the day we’d all go to the park, to the swimming pool, to Atlanta’s Center For Puppetry Arts and Stone Mountain. For the first time in nearly 30 years, I had a solid family footing, and it gave me more strength and courage in every single aspect of my life.

 

A favor from my buddy DeMarco led to working with AirTran’s GO Magazine, and within a year or two my career was better than ever, working for numerous airline and hotel magazines. When my daughter turned 5, I began traveling again, taking her to swim with dolphins in the Bahamas, parasail in Sanibel Island, and windsurf in Aruba. And I’m completely convinced that it was learning how to love my daughter more selflessly that taught me to be a better partner when I finally met the love of my life, Mary, in 2008.

 

It seems odd in retrospect, the series of events that occurred over the following year. My grandmother passed away suddenly 3 months after I met Mary. I was devastated, but would’ve been MUCH more so had Mary and Alex not been there to give me strength and love. Less than nine months later Mary lost the job she’d had for 10 years, a tree fell on her house, crime in her neighborhood swelled, and we decided to move in together. Suddenly, my little family was perfectly complete. Seven months later, with the three 3 of us taking shelter from a tropical storm in Costa Rica, we decided to launch Green Global Travel.

 

alex_love_heart

Alex Gives Me Her Heart At Her 10th Birthday Party

 

Today, my daughter turns 11 years old. I tend to get emotional every year around her birthday, but this year seems especially poignant because of the changes going on in our lives. She just started middle school two weeks ago. She’s 5’3″– already an inch taller than Mary!– and occasionally dismisses certain ideas politely as being too childish. She’d rather read quietly by herself than have the bedtime stories that have been a part of our routine since she was a baby. Her #1 birthday wish? A phone, so she can chat with her friends.

 

It all just serves to remind me that, as the years pass, her time as “my little girl” is rapidly ticking away. Soon she’ll be a woman, with her own dreams and goals, and I have to find some way to let go and be OK with that. I guess my biggest fear is that I’ll never have time to repay her for the immense joy she has brought into my life.

 

I know every parent must deal with these emotions, and that growing up is as much a learning process for me as it must be for her. I know that, in spending quality time with her– whether it be on grand adventures like we had in Yellowstone National Park and Bermuda, our fun “staycations” at the Lake, or simply shooting hoops together in the yard– we’re building memories that will hopefully ensure we remain closely bonded throughout her life. But I can’t help feeling a bit wistful on her birthday, which serves to remind me just how precious our time together is.

 

Alex in NYC @ Top of the Rock

Alex in NYC @ Top of the Rock

 

I want to build Green Global Travel into something amazing, both to preserve the world for my daughter’s generation and to be her role model for passionately following your dreams. I want to be fit and healthy, so that Mary and Alex and I can have many, many adventures together in the years to come. But most of all, I want to be a great dad, and to make sure that pursuing my own hopes and dreams doesn’t interfere with my ability to help her pursue hers.

 

It’s a fine balancing act, and some days I worry that I still haven’t gotten it just right. But I keep trying my hardest every day because, for a guy who had very little interest in becoming a father, I love my 11-year-old kiddo like crazy. She is, after all, my Shooting Star (the song, which I wrote/sang for her, begins right around the 15-minute mark)…   –Bret Love

 

SHOOTING STAR 

by Bret Love

I remember the day I met her/ She took my breath when she came along

Wrapped around her little finger/ Just one touch I knew where I belonged

She got a smile just like an angel/ Eyes like oceans, they can see so far

When she takes flight I yearn to follow/ Into the skies like a shooting star

She’s my shooting star…

She dances when nobody’s watching/ She sees the beauty in the simple things

And greets each new day like a present/ Her laughter golden for the joy it brings

She soars higher than the heavens/ It lifts my spirit just to see her shine

When she returns to earth to greet me/ It fills my heart just to know she’s mine

She’s my shooting star…

I know these days won’t last forever/ Live every moment before the moment’s gone

Wish I could freeze every minute/ Time in a bottle, cuz she’s moving on

She’s my shooting star…

47 Responses to Shooting Star: An Ode To My Daughter, On Her 11th Birthday

  • Ally Venugopal says:

    Happy Happy Birthday, Alex! Sending lots of hugs from Washington State. Hope you have an incredible day celebrating!

  • A very Happy and Wonderful Birthday wish for you, Alex!!
    I’m an old friend of your pop’s and last saw you when you were but a little babe and i have always understood the special power that you have given to his life.
    And “Shooting Star” is such an amazing tribute to what you mean to him and the wonders that you have brought forth to him daily. Be sure, Alex, you are well loved.
    Happy Birthday!!!
    ~jessie

    • Thanks for that, Jessie. You know better than anybody that I’ve written dozens of songs over the years, but that one is definitely one of my favorites. The fact that the lyrics came to me virtually in an instant was evidence of the emotion and inspiration behind them. It’s funny, because I used to think I needed to be miserable to create good art…

  • Noah P. says:

    Happy Birthday, Alex! I think that I can tell from your pictures that you inherited your dad’s spirit. You’re lucky! You have a long life of adventure ahead of you and with your dad’s example, encouragement and support you’ll go to awesome places and do amazing things. I hope, no, let me correct that… I know that you will have a wonderful life! Enjoy it!!

    Bret, “I want to be a great dad” sums it up for me, too! I would have never imagined that we’d be where we are today. We both have 11 year old children and love it/them more than we would have imagined!! Who would have known that those two shady punks living in crash houses would turn out okay or even very good? Peace, my brother.

    • I’m not sure even I believed I would turn out OK after all the stuff we went through. Sometimes I think it’s a minor miracle we didn’t up dead, strung out or in prison. But I guess everyone finds their way through the growing pains that come from a troubled childhood and, for me, being a parent offered an amazing opportunity to show that I’d learned from the mistakes, not only of my past, but of those that came before me. In the end, being a great father to my child means more than just about anything, and it makes all of those struggles we went through totally worth it. Thanks for reaching out, Noah!

  • What a present!
    An Ode on your 11th birthday….
    Have a great day :)

  • In an era where deadbeat dads are more the norm than the exception, you are a shining star, Bret. You are so lucky to have Alex, as she is to have you. She will undoubtedly carry this moving story in her heart her entire life and I’d be willing to bet that when she gets older, she’ll consider it the best birthday present she ever received. Happy birthday Alex! And Bret and Mary, I am honored to know you.

    • Aww, Barbara, such a touching comment! I do hope that we’re laying the groundwork for a great relationship that will last a lifetime. My cousin’s wife and her family all get together every single weekend, with all their spouses and kids, at their parents’ lake house. I want more than anything for us to remain close long after Alex has the choice on whether she wants to hang out with us.

  • Sophie says:

    Lovely tribute, Bret. Happy birthday from Norway, Alex :)

    (I have a daughter who was just 11 last month – and another one called Alex)

  • Mary Karwisch says:

    Happiest of Happy Birthday wishes to you, Alex! How blessed you all are to be in such a loving family. It is truly heartwarming :). I hope your next year is filled with incredible adventures & experiences….whether they be near or far. You may or may not remember me, but my husband, Jim, and I joined you, Your dad & Mary for a boat ride last summer. What a lovely young lady you are. I wish you all the best!!

  • Tiffany Gomez says:

    Alex, you are so beautiful and lucky to have such a great role models in your life. You remind me of my niece with wanting a phone for your birthday (she just turned 12) and complaining about things being too childish haha. Just remember to always keep an open mind to learning new things and always nourish your adventurous spirit ;)
    Sending plenty of birthday wishes your way from Jordan, I hope you have had a great day today and more importantly got that cellphone you wanted :D
    HAPPY BIRTHDAYYY!!

    • She actually did get the cell phone, and we literally just got done setting it up. Since it was the only thing she really asked for and she’s such a great kid, I figured it was the least we could do.

  • Happiest birthday wishes!!

  • Ken & Heather says:

    Happy Birthday Alex!!! :-)

  • Terrie Smith says:

    Alex, you are such a precious young lady and always a pleasure to be around. You have the best of both of your parents all rolled into one and you show the joy of life in a smile that lights up a room. Alex, best wishes for a wonderful birthday, you so deserve to have your wishes granted as you blow out the candles today – as long as it’s not for a boyfriend (LOL)! Always Remember HOW VERY MUCH YOUR GRANNY LOVE LOVED YOU. I honestly believe Granny was on this earth longer because she loved having time with YOU! I Love you, Alex! Aunt Terrie

    • Don’t even get me started on the boyfriend thing, but fortunately that doesn’t seem to interest her just yet. Hopefully we have a few more years before the boy-crazies kick in…

  • Happy Birthday Alex I hope you have a wonderful day with your Dad to whom you are obviously everything, you are a lucky lady on this your special day and everyday.

    • Thanks, Iain! She definitely means the world to me. Can’t believe I went over 30 years imagining a life for myself without kids. Once I had her, being a dad felt like something I was destined to do.

  • There’s nothing like a father/daughter relationship–and, Alex, yours can write a song about it! Lucky girl. Lucky dad.

  • Happy Birthday Alex! It takes a pretty special person to inspire music:)

  • Laurence says:

    I am slightly late, but what the hell. Happy birthday Alex! Your dad rocks ;) Also, I normally find baby pictures incredibly annoying to look at (all babies look the same, right?) but in this case I’m going to have to make an exception. That is one seriously adorable expression!

  • I know how you feel. My daughter turned 12 on Saturday. I, too, get very emotional around her birthday. She is the most beautiful thing in my life and I feel incredibly lucky to be her mother.

    I hope Alex had a wonderful birthday. I’ll bet she did. :)

  • John Finch says:

    Brett,
    Love your honesty! We are making a film called The Father Effect which addresses some of these things and much more that fathers go through – generational curse, absent fathers, etc. I’m sharing your post on our FB page for the film, my nonprofit page, and my personal page. Love to connect on FB – https://www.facebook.com/john.finch.524?ref=tn_tnmn. And please take a look at our short film on our website http://www.TheFatherEffect.com and let me know what you think. Thanks again for saying what many dads are afraid to say.
    John Finch

  • Happy Birthday Alex (sorry it’s late). You are lucky to have such grounded parents and the ability to travel the world! Enjoy it :)

  • Nice song Bret! I actually felt EXACTLY the same way you did in that first sentence. Funny how life and circumstances can change your perspective.

  • A very happy birthday to your daughter. Being a parent is very hard, no one is prepared for it. Its perhaps one of those things that we all have to take part in (parenting). Indeed its a balancing act and some times it does interfere but as long as time is spent with them, at the end of the day it does not matter. Best wishes..

  • Heni says:

    Happy birthday to your little fairy! I bet you have had such a great time on this special day!

  • Ali says:

    Great post Brett, and happy birthday to your daughter. That first picture of her as a baby is adorable! And 5’3″? I only made it to 5’1″ and haven’t grown since I was 12 or 13!

  • Turtle says:

    Wonderful story. Make sure you keep a copy of this somewhere special for Alex to read in the years to come… I’m sure it will mean a lot.

  • Angie Away says:

    You’re such a sweet daddy, Bret! I am sure one day this post will be one of Alex’s most treasured possessions, if it isn’t already ;)

  • Abby says:

    That baby picture is one of the cutest ones I’ve ever seen!!

    • Aw, thanks Abby! I know everybody thinks their baby is the cutest, but Alex had so much personality right from the start (that one was taken at 3 days), most people found her impossible to resist. Fortunately, she’s still just as cute (and goofy) today…

  • How adorable :) I’m not sure whether I want to be a mom or not. I’m 25, so got at least 10 good years to spare before my “clock” demands an answer, but regardless…couldn’t stop reading this post. So beautiful! Prob how my dad feels <3 :)

    – Maria Alexandra

    ps – yes, she has my middle name! hehe

    • Thanks, Maria! Trust me, when I was your age I had no interest in being a dad whatsoever. I should send my ex a thank-you card, because if she hadn’t wanted a child I would’ve denied myself the greatest gift I’ve ever received.

  • I hope Alex cherishes this post and saves a copy of it her entire life. I have a similar letter that my dad wrote to me, trying to somehow put into words how much I mean to him. It is one of my most cherished possessions. What you have written to her here is one of the most important gifts she will ever receive.

    • Thanks, Ellen. I love her so much, and she’s such a great, great kid– even other parents tell us all the time how wonderful she is to have around. After the difficult childhood I had, raising such a healthy, happy, well-adjusted kid is the greatest gift I could ever hope to receive. Giving back to her in some small way is an honor.

  • Katie says:

    Hello Bret and Mary, Congratulations on your daughter’s 11th Birthday. I hope she continues to fill your life with love, laughter, prosperity and happiness. I personally believe (I may be wrong) that girls bring more love and joy to their parents life than a boy. I say this because I too have one. What you beautifully described in the write up above has been experienced by every parent/ father/ mother with their babies, but the feeling is always new and fresh. Reading through your words reminded me of so many fond memories, yet they felt very new and exciting. I wish you, Alex and Mary the very best in life. God Bless!

    • Thanks very much for the kind words! I was truly glad when I found my child would be a girl, and having a daughter has been one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) of my life’s blessings. I never imagined how much joy being a father would bring me.

  • Alexandra says:

    As a 32 year old woman I can assure you that the father/daughter bond never breaks! We always stay daddy’s little girl ;) Sending your shooting star a happy belated birthday!

    • Thanks, Alexandra! I hate worrying that we won’t be as close when she becomes a grownup. But I’m hoping that the bonds we’re building now are strong to survive even after she leaves home.

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