I have loved my daughter Julia from the moment she was born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories during the Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup win in 1993.
That statement couldn’t have been more prophetic.
This past weekend, I participated as a father in that annual spring rite of passage, the high school graduation.
I expected to be a proud parent to be sure, yet I had no idea how far these feelings would grow.
I not only watched my daughter receive her diploma like so many of her friends and classmates, I also watched her grow up right before my very eyes.
Her growth into a beautiful, confident, intelligent, passionate and compassionate young woman was in fact, always happening. It just took this weekend’s events to give me time to focus, reflect and appreciate the changes she was going through.
This past year has been one of tremendous growth and maturity for our daughter.
Last summer during a YMCA leadership program in the Rocky Mountains, Julia had some time for reflection about her values, her future and what she truly wanted in life.
As a result, when the school year started, she decided to step away from the High School volleyball team in her senior year, a year during which her team was almost assured of yet another championship. She did this in order to strengthen her marks with the goal of attending university next year. This mature, difficult decision paid off handsomely when she was accepted in her first program of choice at Acadia University with an early letter of acceptance.
During this year, she also put her name forward and was chosen as the Chairperson for the 2011 Graduation Committee. This meant that she took up the challenge of leadership with respect to a very personal event that almost everyone seemed to have strong opinions about. She had to learn how to collaborate, compromise, delegate, encourage, castigate and ultimately make decisions on issues that she knew would be challenged and second-guessed no matter what choice was made. She learned that leadership can be a very lonely burden at times, one that weighs especially heavily upon the shoulders of a teenage girl.
During the past 48 hours, I saw her overcome frustration and anxiety as her beautiful, new prom dress was stepped on and torn, just minutes prior to taking the stage. I watched her crack jokes and give thoughtful speeches before a huge auditorium filled with parents, teachers and peers. I have seen her partner as Master of Ceremonies with confidence, charm, grace, wit, and style. I saw her reaching out to make the event as inclusive to all factions of her school community as possible, something that can be very difficult to do given how rigid and exclusive high school cliques can become.
Julia was emerging from the chrysalis of her teenage years. I saw my “baby” daughter, carry herself as a poised, graceful and strong young woman.
As a parent, you try your best to be a good role model, to not only say the right things at the right time, but to embody the attitudes and values you hope your children may perhaps adopt as their own. If you’re fortunate, you don’t go on this journey of parenthood alone. I am so thankful that my wonderful wife Hélène and I walk this walk together. There are many times, especially when your child reaches their teenager years, you feel that you can do nothing right. And then…
And then there are those times, those incredibly special times, like this past weekend, when things all seem to come together and you realize that maybe, you may have done a few things right after all. Or perhaps your kids just made more good decisions than bad ones on their own, for their own reasons, despite your sage advice.
Whatever the case may be, I want my daughter to know that I am so completely and utterly proud of the young woman that she is becoming, despite all of my many mistakes as your dad. (Thank goodness for your amazing mom!) I do know that I have always tried to be here for you when you needed me. I feel so lucky enough to have had a front row seat for the best show that life has to offer, no, not at the Stampeder’s games, but as your father.
If the past forty-eight hours is any indication of what the future holds, I can’t wait to see what comes next!
All my love,