Raising a daughter these days? Don't despair. Parents somehow survive the experience. As proof, let me show you a few titled glossies from the old Family Album:
''Our daughter's first word'' - How can any parents recall their daughter's first recognizable utterance unless they spell it out on playblocks and then photograph it? Actually, in this print you see two words. That's because my wife and I differ on what our daughter enunciated at the time. My wife, naturally, maintains the word was ''mommy,'' while I assert it was ''money,'' which makes more cents since it takes a lot of it to rear a daughter in this day and age.
''Her first step'' - Often this momentous but tentative event occurs when you've discovered you're out of film. Thus, a bit of family herstory goes undeveloped, as it unfortunately did in our case. It may be just a small step for daughter, but it is usually followed by some giant leaps by parents, one of which is depicted here by my wife in midflight on her way to prevent a potted geranium from being dropped on the coffee table.
''Our dialing daughter'' - Without doubt, a portentous pose. Although a toy telephone has never appeared on any list of dangerous playthings to avoid, it nevertheless qualifies as a potential time bomb. The real McCoy in the vibrant grasp of a gregarious teen-ager a few short years thence is not a pretty thing to contemplate. So instead, acquaint your playpen charmer with a roll of stamps and a ZIP code guide and you will never fear the future.
''Our family's odd couple'' - This 3-by-5 is the only proof I have of my daughter having ever been in the vicinity of a clothes hamper. It is no secret that an adolescent fashion plate molts about every 90 minutes. The discarded look can be found by the phone, behind the ironing board, outside the shower stall or heaped in front of the hallway mirror, but never ever in the black hole of a hamper. If you could design a hamper that dispensed pizza or played the latest rock hit when used, then the world of parenthood would certainly beat a path to your door, because you built a better clothes trap.
''Daughter's Diary'' - Because of the top-secret nature of this document, this photo was purposely unfocused. I can only guess that its intimate text describes the many deprivations associated with life as it is lived in a frontier village named after Lord Wellesley, and answers the question: Can the daughter of an alleged humorist and overcaring mother ever find happiness in a curfew-imposed, single-phone, younger-brother, split-level environment? Seriously, such autobiography should never be mocked. Suppose, in the future, my daughter interests a sympathetic publisher who makes The Way It Was into a best seller. Then might follow the movie rights, a TV series, talk show appearances and public disclosure by the best-selling author that despite her meager allowance, she somehow managed to raise two difficult parents.
''SIXTEEN'' - This revered glamour monthly in the hands of our 13-year-old blossom is but one of several your daughter may subscribe to that highlights the well-groomed look after puberty, and whose advertised products promise a slick transition from ugly duckling to swanhood. Should your daughter elect to become a cover girl, you will have to deal with bathroom priorities, trails of talcum, dull razors, cold water showers and poor TV reception due to the extensive use of hair blowers. And remember, on those special occasions when your datable daughter comes to you for the final inspection after hours of preparation, not to spare the superlatives.
''Life lines'' - This snap displays a few life support systems no evolutionary teen should be without. The quadraphonic, eight-track, high-energy stereo system pictured here is capable of cracking ceilings at maximum volume control which, according to its operator, is the only way to appreciate all the latest electronic nuances of recorded rock. The credit cards atop the stereo will give you the charge of a lifetime, if you can afford it, and increase your debt ceiling without congressional approval. The car keys remind you that the transition from training wheels to 10-speed to front-wheel drive exceeds any speed limit posted on our highways. The photo gallery behind the stereo means no teen lives alone, and proof of this is always pending whenever the phone or doorbell rings or a dual exhaust sounds off in your driveway.
''The new guest room'' - Until the subject of this photo essay recently moved into her own digs a few miles down the road with a girlfriend, this was her space for nearly 20 years. You might say we've gained a room but lost a daughter. Maybe. But will someone tell me who owns that pillowcase of soiled laundry that's left in the front hallway every other day? Or who's been sampling the refrigerated casseroles and my private stock of Oreo Cookie ice cream?
A daughter is forever!