Thursday, June 07, 2007
Today my daughter Jessica graduates from high school.
Yesterday, she was in diapers. It's a cliche to say how quickly it goes - I guess cliches are cliches because they are true. That one is certainly true.
Seventeen years ago, when Jessica WAS in diapers and we were expecting our second child, we decided to get off the treadmill of our big city finance industry Chicago lifestyle and move back to my native Portland so we could have a more family-oriented life. We literally quit our jobs, sold our house, and moved. No job waiting for me here. Mary wanted to be a full time mom. I figured I'd be able to make a living somehow.
We left behind in Chicago a life pathway of almost certain wealth - but a lifestyle which made it 100% certain that we'd barely see our kids on weekdays, would have full time nannies, and would not be there for baseball games and choir concerts and all the other associated youth activities that accumulate to make up childrens' childhoods.
It was an easy call.
Their childhood goes fast enough as it is. You can't slow it down, but you CAN make sure that you don't miss it. I will never, ever regret our decision to quit our jobs in Chicago. My beautiful and talented daughter is reward enough.
Jessica is a dream. Years ago she decided that she was going to make things easy on mom and dad. All the prototypical adolescent girl difficulties - the defiant stage, the eye rolling stage, the boy crazy stage - she decided all that wasn't for her.
She is a musician - her voice is her instrument. Ever since she was small, she sang all the time. We could tell, even with our own amateur ears, that she had talent. She sang in school choirs, in the Portland Symphonic Girls Choir, took voice lessons, did singing competitions. I love to hear her singing spontaneously around our house - I will miss hearing it when she is off at school this fall.
She won a $1000 scholarship in a singing contest two years ago, where the three girl final was judged by audience applause at PGE Park during a Rose Festival event. She sang twice at the Rose Garden to kick off KXL's "Talk Fest" events, as I stood backstage with Tony Snow, watching her lovely face on the big screen video feeds that bookended the stage. She sang many solos with her various choirs.
I was able to be there for virtually all of them.
Woody Allen once said that 90% of success in life is showing up each day. I think that is very true about parenting. Let's face it - none of us really know what we are doing. We are just winging it, dealing with all the various issues, situations, conflicts and decisions by making day-to-day judgments about what seems right. Showing up - being there - doesn't take any particular genius, but it just might be the most important part of parenting.
There isn't any magic formula. Great parents can have kids who stray. Lousy parents can have great kids. Bottom line, we do what we can, and we are all hoping we get lucky.
Well, my wife and I got lucky. But we did show up every day.
To my daughter: Jessica, you are the light of my life. You are beautiful in every way. I am more proud of you than I can tell you. You bring joy to everyone you know.
You graduate today, and at the end of the summer, you'll start a new chapter in your life, largely removed from your mom and me. We are in no way anxious for that to start, but the job of a parent is to work your way out of a job. It is bittersweet, however, because we like this job!
Your talents and spirit will take you wherever you want to go, and I am eager to watch your journey. Wherever it takes you, whatever you do, your mom and I will still show up every day.