Athena at 14

There’s been some speculation at the Scalzi Compound about whether Athena would be taller than me or not at her 14th birthday. Well, today’s the day, and as you can see, it’s a very close thing. Krissy (who took this picture) tells me that whether I’m taller than my daughter or not depends almost entirely on whether I’m lifting up my chin when we’re standing next to each other. Apparently I have a lofty forehead. The upshot of it, however, is that at Athena’s 14th birthday, she and I are more or less tied, heightwise. In a month, and without disputation, I will be the shortest human in the house. At least I will still be able to lord over the pets.

I am, mind you, perfectly fine with this. One does not marry a woman substantially taller than one’s self if one has height issues. Athena has always been tall for her age; when I was her age, on the other hand, I was a shade over five feet tall. It’s never been a question of if Athena would out-tall me; it’s always been a question of when. Now we know.

I otherwise continue to consider myself lucky to have the child I do. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Athena may not be the perfect child, but I believe she is the perfect child for me. She’s smart, funny, observant, occasionally wise and sometimes a real pain in the ass, but always her own person. I’m delighted by the person she is and often amazed at the person she is becoming. She makes me want to be a better parent for her, every day.

So happy birthday, Athena, with much love, from your clearly-soon-to-be-shorter-than-you father. May you continue to grow every day, and not just in height.

89 Comments on “Athena at 14”

  1. I love your writing, John Scalzi – but I think what impresses me most about you as a human being is your love for your family and your willingness to show it to the world. It shines here in your post, and it shines in the photo. Thank you for being the person you are, and may you continue to grow with your family in love and light.

  2. Happy Birthday, Athena!

    One of my friends is 6′ 3″, his wife is 6′ 2″. Their eldest daughter is taller than they are, and she recently married a man who is taller still. At their wedding, the best man toasts them with the usual honors and dignities … and closes with, “ last thing, guys: your kids are going to be freekin’ ginormous!”

    The cheering, laughter, and applause was near to deafening.

  3. Happiest of birthdays to Athena, and to all the Scalzi Clan!

    (I was the tallest woman in 3 generations, and taller than my elder brother. My daughter out-paced me by 13.)

  4. All other difficulties aside, it’s going to be a hard day when my daughter towers over her half-brother. My ex-wife’s family averaged about 5’5″. My wife is the shortest in her family at 5’7″.

  5. You will know the precise moment that she surpasses you in height because the crystal embedded in your palm will start blinking red.

    Remember the rule for circa-Christmas birthdays – no cheating combo gifts!

  6. She’s still growing? I hit 5’2″ at age 12 and then didn’t grow another inch until I was 18, when I grew two more randomly (and have subsequently lost one due to spine compaction and twisting). She’s an awesome daughter, and you are obviously an awesome father, and Chrissy is obviously an awesome mother – you’re all so blessed to have each other!

  7. Ah, @Jim Saul – my 2nd husband’s birthday is on the 21st of December – I’ve known him since he was 15 and never combined his gifts (he’s an ex- now, of course – I’m on to Husband 3, whose birthday is right around Valentine’s day… do I know how to pick ’em or what??)

    Also, forgot – Happy Birthday to Athena!

  8. This explains your menagerie.

    Etymological pedantry: Perfect technically means “after the fact” or “complete” so one’s whole life is a process of perfection. But yeah, the common use is to mean “ideal”, and common usages arguably trumps technical meaning.

    You are to be congratulated on the perfection of your heir, Baron :-P

    Incidentally, you know your days as Sci-Fi Supremo and numbered, right?

  9. My mother’s 5’10”, but when I eventually outpaced her, she just looked me right in the eye with mock seriousness and said, “Remember, you’re never taller than your mother.” I married a woman substantially shorter than I, so I passed this bit of wisdom to her, when our kids pass her in 8 or 10 years.

  10. Happy Birthday, Athena.

    Thank you for sharing your dad with us. And thank you for inspiring him to create something I love (his writing) that I can share with someone I love (my soon to be 14 year old daughter).

  11. Happy birthday, Athena! Today is the best birthday day. I should know, I’ve had 30 years of experience! ;)

  12. Happy Birthday, Athena! Also, congratulations on the height thing. As a child of short parents who nonetheless managed to end up shorter still, I think I envy you a little. :)

  13. Hahaha, I can’t believe people still wear Invader Zim shirts. It’s been 10 years!!

    Also, happy birthday, Athena.

  14. Happy Birthday, Athena! My 15 year old daughter is stopped at 5’2 and will always be shorter than me, My almost 13 year old son is just taller than her and will pass me up, if not this year then next, his feet are already bigger than mine. Not sure if my twins will hit 5′, they are almost 11 and on the tiny side. My youngest daughter won’t be 8 for two more weeks but is bigger than the twins. It’s just a matter of time before she towers over me. .

  15. Eye-level at 14 is nothing. My son was half a foot taller than me at 13, and at 16, is so far past me that I can’t even kiss his cheek unless he bends down obediently. Appreciate the ability to pat the top of her head while you still have it!

  16. It’s a metaphor for when they start exceeding you in other ways. Watching one of your kids do something you could never do, and never will be able to do, is one of the startling joys of parenthood.

  17. So how tall are the both of you, anyway?

    I’m 5’4″. My younger brother is 6’5″. I’ve always been mistaken for his little sister. Sigh.

    Happy birthday, Athena?


  18. Happy Birthday “little” girl!
    John, I know how you feel. My perfect “little” guy is 12 1/2, and at 5′-5″ is 1/2 an inch shorter than me. It’s only a matter of time. *groan*

  19. Have an awesome day, Athena! I can tell you, having turned 48 today, that it just keeps getting better and better!

  20. I’m now the shortest in my family as well, as my 14 year old has grown inches this year. Undoubtedly, Athena will do the same.

    Happy Athena’s Birthday, John, and many more to that lovely daughter of yours.

  21. Happy Birthday Athena! My own Athena, at age 4, is something over 3 feet. However, at 6’8″, I’m likely to remain taller as long as I can stand…

  22. I wished her a happy birthday on Twitter, but us Christmas babies have to stick together, so another birthday wish here. Have a great day, Athena!

  23. I started reading your blog before either of my kids were born, and it was one of the spots I took notes from. There’s a danger to knowing some authors – sometimes it flavors their books in a way that doesn’t sit right – but after reading your blog, on being a father and husband, makes your novels and stories hit a bit harder. Thanks for sharing this part of your life – and showing a lot of guys how a real dad works. And happy birthday to Athena!

  24. Happy Birthday, Athena!

    (John, it’s not the height of the man in the world, but the heights of the worlds in the man.)

  25. Happy Birthday Athena.

    I’m 5’8, so not short for a woman. I was eldest, and when I moved away from home I was the tallest in my family (my two brothers have since passed me by) but my own daughter passed me around 12, and is now 6’1, taller than her father and her brother. There are advantages to height, stand tall.

  26. My daughter Pippa turns 14 on the 26th. She is currently 2 inches shorter than me. I’ve told her that once she outgrows me, she’s fired.


  27. Happy Birthday to Athena! I am the shortest human in the house and can testify that it’s not a bad thing. Of course, I own a step stool.

  28. ” At least I will still be able to lord [it] over the pets.”
    Well, the dog and the rabbit, anyway.

  29. John, the pets only seem shorter ’cause they’re on all fours, and thats only so you’ll keep feeding them. Sorry, dude. ;-)

    And a Very Happy Birthday to young Miss Athena.

  30. Beautiful sentiment.

    Plus I just watched “Nightmare before christmas” last night.

  31. Happy birthday Athena!

    FWIW, I was thrilled when my son got taller than me (by one whole inch). I married someone 2″ shorter than me, from a short family. Congrats to you and your wife for not being height obsessed. I always tell people that of all the problems in my marriage, the height difference wasn’t one of them.

  32. Happy Birthday, Athena!

    I am totally jealous that you have a Melting Pot near your tiny town and we do not near my large city. Enjoy!

  33. 1. I love the expression on your face in that photo. I can absolutely see your affection and admiration for your daughter in that picture.

    2. I was a regular blog reader when Athena was born. My older daughter was born a little less than two years later — Molly is twelve and, like Athena, really really really geeky.

    3. It is SO MUCH FUN having a geek kid. You know that xkcd strip about the joy of telling people about the Yellowstone supervolcano or showing them Mentos & Diet Coke? Raising a geek kid is getting to do that EVERY DAY.

    4. Happy birthday, Athena, and congratulations on your height milestone! When I got taller than my mother, my father started making ME help him out every time he needed to move furniture around. (I have no idea how the division of labor for Moving Heavy Stuff works in your house, though. Maybe you’ll be off the hook a bit longer.)

  34. Happy Birthday Athena, may they all be filled with laughter and love. John I know exactly how you feel my daughter just turned 17 11/2 and my pride, admiration and love just keep growing everyday. Enjoy every moment it seems to go so fast, sigh…..

  35. [Deleted because I don’t know what it said because it appears it might have been in a different language, and the format made it difficult to figure out which language it might me. Christopher, if you want to try again and offer translation, I would be obliged — JS]

  36. Sorry, I seldom post things. I am an apsi, if you say an explanation would be appropriate, then forgive me I meant no offence.

    I have been studying for a novel I working on. It is Mycenaean in Linear B transliteration. It would generally read:

    gifts and good wishes, Athena mistress Scalzi


  37. Now that my 2 oldest are substantially taller than I am, I find they’re a great help for those pesky top-shelf items that are out of reach.

    Happy Birthday, Athena. You now have a lifetime of changing lightbulbs and reaching the top shelves ahead of you.

  38. Happy birthday, Athena! I’ve enjoyed watching you grow up, via the Whatever. The world is a better place because you’re in it.

  39. “Athena may not be the perfect child, but I believe she is the perfect child for me. She’s smart, funny, observant, occasionally wise and sometimes a real pain in the ass, but always her own person. I’m delighted by the person she is and often amazed at the person she is becoming. She makes me want to be a better parent for her, every day.”

    I love this part John! Such a wonderful sentiment. This is what unconditional love really is. It’s not loving a person because of who they are but loving them in spite of it.

    Happy Birthday Athena!

  40. Happy Birthday, Athena!
    I haven’t seen such an expression of parental pride on a face in years. Best to the Scalzi clan, both human and furry.

  41. Your expression makes this easily the most spectacular photo of you I’ve seen. It’s wonderful how expressive you are (in words and otherwise) of your love for your family.

    Many happy returns of the day to Athena!

  42. A warm fuzzy for Christmas? Scalzi clan, you shouldn’t have! Hope Athena’s daiy is beautiful!

  43. Happy (late) Birthday Athena! I hope you’re having an AWESOME Birthday Week!!!

    John – I remember seeing you at a signing a few years ago at Books & Co. in Dayton. Krissy & Athena were with you – Athena exploring the bookstore, looking at books while you signed. At one point during the signing, she came up to you to ask a question. You stopped, listened and answered her. Your attention and expression of love toward your daughter mirrored the expression on your face in this picture. Your obvious love and devotion to your family is something I admire about you – even more than the fun I get from reading your work. Thanks for being an exemplar of a real man – one who cares about & places his family first.

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