Thursday, June 07, 2007

To Jessica

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.


Anonymous said...

Rob, you are lucky. Jessica looks like a delightful and accomplished young lady.

Are you sure she is yours?

Worldwide Pablo said...

What a lovely story, and so lovingly told. Thanks for letting us peek in upon so rich a family experience.

Anonymous said...

Rob -
I will second what Pablo said. That was almost lyrical. It is obvious how much you love your daughter. She is a beautiful young lady. You are lucky indeed.

Anonymous said...

That black and white picture is awesome. She is an incredibly photogenic young lady.

I am Coyote said...

Wow, how time DOES fly. It seems like it was not that long ago that my wife and I were over at your house for some festivities (was it a new years or Christmas party?) and your kids were... welll KIDS!

Congratulations to you and your daughter. Although you are now scaring the h*ll out of me with regard to my kids and time.

Although you just validated my decision to move back to my old small home town and do the same thing you did.

Accurate said...

Rob - I'm right there with you. My daughter just graduated and figured out that she really doesn't know what she wants to do with her life (in possible contrast with your daughter). She has taken a few college courses but nothing really caught her attention. She caught mine when she asked me if I'd be upset if she were to join the Army. She ships to boot camp on 6/12. The career path in the Army should keep her from 'harm's way'. She will be able to travel, which is one of her aspirations; and she will get time and exposure to other jobs to help her during this period of figuring things out. It's very hard to let go.

Ross Day said...


I don't like this post very much.


Because my little girl just turned 1 and now you have me thinking about the fact that someday she is going to leave me and my wife.

I just hope we do as good of a job as you.

Well done my friend, well done.

Ross Day

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful, thoughtful essay!!

You are all very lucky to have shared these years together - and now the journey takes a new direction - but still you will be together everyday - if not physically then emotionally and in each others thoughts...

Thank you for sharing the experience and the joy of the last 17 years.

Chris King

Mick said...

"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."

"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."

Wow! You summarized my philosophy of parenting perfectly. What an extremely heartfelt and well-written piece.

Congratulations to you, your wife and your lovely daughter. All the best for all of you in the future!

Anonymous said...

OMIGOD your daughter is georgeous!

And even better, she seems from all your description to be intelligent and talented, too?

Anonymous said...

WOW! Your daughter is H-O-T! Congrats to the Miss on the graduation. Is she single or seeing someone?

robert said...

We're a year away from this experience...and dreading it! But the best we can do is turn our emotions into art -- with brush, camera, or words -- this is what it's all about. It seems sometimes I can't remember everything I want to be able to remember about when mine were little.....but I think that really sitting down with a pen and paper, as you've done, will help it all find the light again.
Best of luck to your daughter! She's sure to be a big hit wherever she goes!

james of salem said...

Great story & thoughts. Makes me wonder how so many parents readily abdicate responsibility to paid surrogates and/or government. I guess they won't know what they missed until they are old & alone.

Good luck to her & keep fighting for school choice.

Anonymous said...

Oh Rob what a wonderful note about yoru daughter. She is a truly beautiful girl. Wow!I just wanted to say that being the kind I dad you have been to her is the greatest gift you can give to a daughter.

I lost my dad this year, he was my best friend and I am so blessed to have been raised by him and my mom. he truly always encouraged me that I could be whatever I wanted to in life and I took that seriously. I have never let anyone try to stop me from achieving the sucesses in life I wanted. There is just something special about a father/daughter bond.


Anonymous said...


Sincere thanks for your daughters choice to serve.

Hans Niemand
Citizen/Navy vet.

Jessie Bear said...

Thanks Dad.

The decision you made is so beautiful to me, and I am so grateful to have that kind of example. And thank you for being so supportive of me following my passion, because without you and Mom encouraging me to do that, I wouldn't have.

I love watching you become a continually more loving man.


Anonymous said...

Hi Uncle Rob,
That was absolutely beautiful (as is Jess & the rest of your family)!!
With much love,

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