My daughter turned 18 yesterday. She’s my eldest child and my only daughter, so that’s a pretty big deal in our family. She’s also in the midst of her last summer at home before she heads off to university in the fall. For those of you who have gone through this transition with your children, you know all of the mixed emotions that come with this stage in life. Sadness, pride, and fear all come to mind. My youngest son aptly described it yesterday at the traditional family birthday supper:
“I’m kind of sad and happy that she’s going to university in September. I’m sad that she’s not going to be here, but I’m really happy I finally get my own room.”
His sentiments are different than the ones that I’m feeling, but he’s definitely feeling that jumble of emotions as we all anticipate the end of August.
When our children reach milestones, it’s also a chance for reflection. As my wife and I look back on our eighteen years of parenting, we hope we’ve done our job well. As we’ve reminded ourselves a few times over the last year, while we will continue to have some impact in our daughter’s life, it’s too late if we were hoping to make any major changes. With a driver’s license, the abolition of early evening curfews, and friends who are also young adults, her independence has arrived. As she leaves for the next social outing, our reminder of “Make good choices” is much more for our ears than hers at this point.
I’ve given speeches at many graduation ceremonies over the years, but this year was very different as, for the first time, I could relate to all of the parents sitting in the audience.
As in every grad speech I give, I thank all of those who work in the school district for the part that they have played in a graduating student’s life:
Thank you to your parents, your extended families, your principals, your teachers, your teaching assistants, your school secretaries, your youth care workers, your custodians, your school bus drivers, and your noon hour supervisors ever since all of you lovely people were in Kindergarten. The district staff and the maintenance workers who work quietly behind the scenes deserve some credit too. As important as you students are to reaching this milestone, all of these people played their important roles along the journey.
This year, I felt even more grateful as my daughter reached the end of thirteen years of school and prepared for the next journey in life. My wife and I really do thank all of you who have had an impact on our daughter’s life over the last thirteen years. While we firmly believe that parents play the biggest role in a child’s life, there are so many of you who have played other key roles along the way. You have taught grammar, math formulas, and how to pass a basketball, but you have also counseled, coached, modeled, and mentored. Sometimes it was easy because she wanted to learn what you had to teach her. At other times, it was a struggle because she couldn’t understand why that day’s lesson was relevant to her life. Even on those days, she learned how to learn, and this will prove invaluable as she now takes much more control over her own future learning.
My daughter’s final year in high school ended strangely. It was sudden, and there were fewer chances for those final goodbyes, handshakes, and hugs. While we all would have loved for it to end differently, it does not take away from everything that came before.
From the bottoms of our hearts, my wife and I thank you for your help in raising our daughter to be the young woman she has become. Keep doing what you’re doing … we’ve got three sons we’re not finished with yet!
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