A little over twelve years ago I sat downa at my desk and began to put thought down on paper as I prepared to send my daughter off to kindergarten for the very first time. I remember as a Dad being concerned watching my right hand gal as she skipped down the gravel driveway to wait by the large sugar maple at the end for the bright yellow school bus to come. She carried with her not only a new backpack filled with crayons and Kleenex but the part of my heart and life she had occupied for the first years of her life. I stood on the porch and waved to her, proud of the little girl who could count to one-hundred, tie her own shoes and knew every letter in the alphabet.
She was Dad’s girl. The one who curled up with me during a Packers game and made me change the channel to Zoom on PBS, the one who followed me around the yard and helped me plant seeds in the garden each spring. I knew that she was growing when she went off to pre-school and started to learn how to grow up and what it meant to have friends that were out of our normal circle. She learned to raise her hand, and stand in line and how to share with others. This was the beginning of a downward spiral for her Dad, who missed having her around to make funny faces with and run around after the cat.
We try to shield our children from as much of the grown up world as we can. We talk to them, get involved in their lives and try to teach them the difference between a good choice and one that leads to trouble. But in that world of school she was beyond my control, she was becoming her own person and she suddenly had this entire life without me.
I can’t begin to count the number of trips to see a music concert, ball game or one of the many functions that came along with being her Dad once she found a world full of fun groups to be a part of. She was a girl who loved singing, and speaking and softball and she found that knowledge and good grades satisfied her as much as trophies and boyfriends and shiny things.
A change of schools brought new friends that I didn’t know. Her first friends at a new school accepted her and she fit in with that group of kids that was liked by everyone and didn’t care about being popular. She excelled and achieved more than I ever imagined and she soon switched places with me when we were talked about. No longer was she my daughter… and I became known as Hannah’s Dad. Playing second fiddle isn’t always easy…there were times when I didn’t know the names of her friends and there were a few times when I had to have talks with potential suitors, but through it all I never found a time when I questioned what she was doing. She continued to grow and I continued to be proud of the young lady she was becoming.
Time goes by really fast and the road from kindergarten to graduation sometimes seems like a freeway rather than a meandering gravel road. In the next few weeks Hannah and her group of old and new friends will don their caps and gowns and walk across the stage for the final time. As parents we will smile and possibly shed a few tears and we will reminisce about how surprised we are that she grew up so quickly. It won’t be long and she’ll be packing a car and preparing on her next journey and I’m sure that I’ll be standing on the porch waving good luck to her and hoping that she finds all the joy that the promise of the future holds for her. And when I wave for the last time and turn to go back into the house, I know I’ll be as proud of her then as I was that very first time she walked to the end of the drive.
See you next week…remember, we’re all in this together.