As I watched my daughter, Nee, at the bus stop, it felt as if she were about to enter a long, yellow portal. On this side of the portal, she was my little girl who liked “Daddy-back” rides and flipping through Barbie catalogs with me. But on the other side, she would be a beautiful, mature 6th grader. Where did the time go?
I can still remember holding her in my hands for the first time. Her first word (“da-da”). Her first step. All of these memories flooded my mind throughout the day and I could hardly concentrate on my work. I couldn’t wait for her to get home so I could give her a hug and hear about her first day of middle school.
When she arrived, I looked at her and was taken aback.
“Why does Nee look so tall?” I asked my wife. “Did she grow over the course of the day?”
Nee smiled and I lamented that my daughter was becoming a young lady right before my eyes and there was nothing I could do about it.
At dinner, I asked Nee about her first day of school.
Her day was typical of someone just entering 6th grade. She got lost a few times. She couldn’t open her locker. The crowds were sometimes a bit intimidating. But she was filled with excitement about being a middle schooler.
In band class, she learned how to be a metronome by rocking side to side and counting the beats. Nee’s math and science teachers piqued her interest with their innovative lesson plans. I was most impressed, however, by Nee’s World Culture class activity. Her teacher gave each student a piece Jolly Rancher candy with a question that corresponded with first letter of the flavor.
Nee received apple and her question was:
“What would you do if your weren’t afraid of anything?”
After carefully considering the possibilities, Nee said that she would skydive.
I know she chose that answer because jumping out of an airplane seemed like the scariest thing that anyone could do. But this question struck me at a deeper level.
Life is full of scary things and many people miss out on great experiences and opportunities because they allow their fears to stifle them. Over the past few years, I’ve made a conscious effort to help my kids push past their fears. In my quest to help them, I’ve also had to address some of my own fears.
As a dad, I want to protect my children from all harm and disappointment. Nee’s going to middle school stirred up a few fears, concerns, and reasons to worry. What if she encounters a bully? How will she respond if someone offers her drugs? Will she have the strength of character to stand up for her beliefs even if they are contrary to what’s popular?
I hope and pray that I’ve done my job well enjoy that she will be able to properly deal with these situations or at least feel comfortable enough to talk to her mother and me about them.
I’d love for my daughter to remain a little girl forever, but in order to get over my fears, I have to learn to let go and let her blossom into the beautiful young lady she was created to be.