Fathers have tender spots for their daughters. It says so on page 1 of the Daddy handbook.
So, it is fitting and proper that on this Tuesday, just a few days before Father’s Day, my oldest daughter will give me the greatest gift she’s given me in the first 18 years of her life. She will join her friends at Memorial Auditorium and walk across the stage to collect her high school diploma.
And despite my best efforts to be as macho as I can be, I’ll probably shed a few joyful tears for her. (Page 2 of the Daddy handbook says that’s OK, in moderation.)
In a lot of ways, I’ll watch a little version of me walk across that stage Tuesday. Anna Kate has never met a social event she didn’t want to take part in. She’s never learned to say no to a chance to volunteer for this duty or that. She has had a front row seat at countless Rotary Club meetings, watching community leaders in action.
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Her first experience on a computer involved helping me type “bituaries” when she was too small to even say the word properly. I dare say she’s been to more town board meetings, planning board meetings, school board and county commissioner meetings than 99.9 percent of her peers. She’s almost certainly stuffed more advertising insert packets into newspapers than anyone her age.
She has settled onto benches beside me and taken her own notes at meetings and she formed opinions early in life about whether our elected leaders were making good decisions.
When Anna Kate was tiny, I preached to her the importance of being a leader. In my mind, I intended that to mean that she should set good examples for her little sister, Pitt. In her mind that meant she should talk her entire kindergarten class into lining up along a fence during recess while she threw a ball and directed one student or another to go retrieve it. On Tuesday it will mean, as a class president, she gets to lead her classmates in the ceremonial turning of the tassel.
She will do that, I am sure, with her big, beautiful smile on display for everyone to see.
Following in Daddy’s footsteps, though, is about to end. She’s ready to make her own mark on the world now, and she’ll do it for the first time out from under my watchful eye.
At milestone moments like this, every parent hopes fervently that the life lessons they’ve tried to impart will take hold and guide their child as they make that transition into adulthood.
I’m not worried about that. Her mom, Becky, and I have raised a young woman who knows what she wants and has clear ideas about how to get those things. She knows the difference between right and wrong. She has ambition and a servant’s heart. Those things will stay with her long after she’s left the nest.
And if she stumbles, she can always come home and help her Daddy type “bituaries.”