My daughter is a junior in high school. She'll only be so for a few more hours. In our school district, they have this tradition called move up day. Every grade sits in their designated spot in the gym. Freshman sit in one corner. Sophomores in theirs. So on and so forth. Then, after some pomp and circumstance, everyone gets up and "moves up" to their new spot. So in a few hours, my daughter will be a senior in high school. She's a bit nervous about it. I suppose I should be too. Surprisingly, though, I am not nervous as much as I am grateful.
My daughter, who is currently a junior in high school, was born when I was a junior in high school. So, in a lot of ways, life came full circle for me this year. My daughter reached the age that I was when she came into my life. They say that having a kid makes you grow up faster. I am here to tell you that this statement is not entirely true. When I was 16, I was a boy. When I was 17, a child was born, but I was still a boy. The child being born didn't change me much. What did change me, though, was having a little girl watching me live my life.
I remember driving her around one day. She was about 3 or 4 years old. Just old enough to form sentences. Someone cut me off in traffic, and I reacted the way I normally would. "What the *&%! are you doing?!" Then a little voice whispered from the back seat, "Why did you say that bad word?" It hit me. Someone is listening.
I remember having an argument with my wife one day. This was not odd. Before she was my wife, we argued. When she was my wife, we argued. Now that she's not my wife, we still argue. But the arguments changed at some point. See, before my baby girl was old enough to pay attention, I wasn't the nicest guy in the world. But I remember arguing with her mother one day and thinking to myself that I had to at least be relatively nice. After all, baby girl is listening. Thats when life changed. That's when I realized that my job as her dad was to teach her what men look like, sound like , and ACT like. So, in order to do it right, I'd have to act like a man. Not a boy. Actions speak louder than words, right? And thats how this boy became a man. Not at age 17, but somewhere along the way.
Over the years I have gotten better at it. And every step of the way, she has been there to point me in the right direction. Not by saying so, exactly. She's still a kid. She doesn't even know she's directing my steps. But that little voice that I heard in the back seat of the car that day rings in my head an awful lot. Before I do any dumb boy thing that I might wish I could do, I always hear that voice saying, "Daddy why did you...." Its usually enough to talk me out of it.
So as I look at my little girl, who is about to be a senior in high school, I think of the boy that I used to be. I think back on the last 17 years of my life. I can't pinpoint the day that it happened, but somewhere in there my little girl taught me to be a man. One of those days, I'm not sure which one, but one of those days was my move up day. For that, I have to thank my baby girl. Good luck today, my love.