Chicago dad isn’t ready to see the next 1,455 days disappear

Facebook is filled with pictures of kids graduating, everything from pre-school to med school. I always enjoy looking at the pictures of the proud parents and smiling kids as they begin the next chapter of their lives.

On Wednesday, May 28, I will become one of those “proud parents” as the teenager graduates from eighth grade and gets ready to start her journey into high school. While she is more than ready, I am not quite as ready to see her walk across that stage.

It means that the days are truly slipping away.

It’s cliché, but I remember her first day of school like it was yesterday, or more to the point, the night before her first day of school. We all went out to our favorite restaurant for a last summer meal, as we sat outside and enjoyed the warm air, I kissed her on the head and said “goodbye.” She was no longer going to be my sidekick, off to explore ducks, horses and impromptu tea parties. She now “had” to go to school. I was losing her.

Now, I know, I will never truly lose my little girl. We have a special bond that will last until I take my last breath or she decides to get a belly button ring. However, the chapters seem to be flying by faster and faster as the years go on, and I quite frankly am a mess about the whole thing.

A short 10 years ago, she started dance lessons with the local park district. Her biggest concern was getting her bow right. As the curtain closed, she jumped out, dodging the curtain and took several well-rehearsed bows, blowing a kiss right at her daddy who was snapping pictures right in the front row.

Last week she danced her “last dance” balancing so delicately on her ballet shoes.  She was graceful, confident and beautiful. As the music played, I took only one out of focus picture of her dancing instead of the usual multimedia spectacular.

This dance I wanted to watch, savor and remember forever. This was the final chapter in glittery costumes, tap shoes and LOTS of eye shadow. This dance left me in tears. My baby was in fact growing up and proving it with every move across the stage. The reason for the out-of-focus picture? To remind me of how fast it has happened: a blur.

So, on Wednesday, she graduates from eighth grade. After that it’s only 1,455 days until she graduates from high school. That’s only three years, 11 months, 24 days or 47 months, 24 days or 208 weeks, one day or 1,039 weekdays or 3.99 years before she takes off to college!

Factor into those days, the time she will be at school, asleep and “doing stuff” and we have a total of 45 minutes left before she takes off for good! When did that happen? She was just friggin’ born!

We have 45 minutes left to talk more about boys and what to expect from frat parties, the importance of always wearing sandals into the dorm showers, why you should never take yoga after eating a gyro the night before, how to merge in traffic, how to pack a backpack, the art of repelling, how to make an amazing omelet, throw a tight spiral or watch Chariots of Fire!

How are we supposed to pack that and so much more into 1,455 days! She needs to know how to parallel park, shoot a free throw, blow a bubble inside a bubble, dock a boat and get out of a sand trap (not that I know). We are running out of time.

Before I was Dad All Day, I was dad traveling 200 days a year. At that time, the kid and I made an agreement that we would savor the time we had together and not dwell on the things that we missed out on.

Trust me, it’s much easier said than done, but something we try our hardest to achieve. Not every moment is a “Facebook” moment, not everything we say to each other is Twitter worthy, but the fact that we are together is what matters most, something that I have cherished from the second she “popped out” to the day I leave her at Harvard or NASA or the Olympic Training Center, something like that.

While the vacations, parties and big moments are amazing experiences, it’s the smiles, talks, laughs and even the tears that make the memories that will last forever, the moments I will cherish for the next 1,455 days and beyond.

I never “wanted” to be a dad growing up or even after I got married. But the reality of being a parent didn’t hit me until 5,332 days ago, when a little 6 pound, 1 ounce human changed my entire outlook on life, making it better with each and every one of the 5,332 days (well more like 5,000, she is a teenage girl after all.)

Here’s to my baby, growing up, your babies and the memories that make this insane job of parenting so very worth it.


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