It is toward the end of the day, and a group of senior girls are sitting in class. They are conversing regarding prom, while also congratulating a friend of theirs on what is her 18th birthday today. The birthday girl is so happy that she is 18 years of age and going to prom this weekend. The PA system sounds and the birthday girl’s name is called in class. On the other end of the PA system is a man’s voice, it’s her father. He not only wants to tell her happy birthday, but he has another important message as well.
DAD: Hello sweetie, this is your father, and I wanted to wish you a happy 18th birthday. Now I know this might make you feel uncomfortable, but please bare with me. This message is not only to tell you happy birthday, but something much more. 8lbs to be exact is what you weighed when you were first born. Holding you in my arms, made me realize for the first time in my life I loved something more than myself. Your mother was so fatigued after you were born, so I held you as she slept. Eventually the doctor carried you away to an incubator. And being the loving father that I am, I followed behind.
Looking at you from the other side of that glass, I was fixated on everything that was my infant daughter. From the cap the doctor placed on your head to wrist band with your birthing information. From your heartbeat to the machine that recorded it. I still remember being told by the doctor how you would have to stay in the hospital for a few days. The first night, I slept overnight in the hospital. Your mother fast asleep in the hospital room bed and I was curled up in a chair. The slightest noise at the room door, caused me to pop up out of my sleep. I’m telling you baby girl, being a first time parent you don’t know what to expect.
As you know, you came home and it’s what would be the start of our family. From the first night I laid you in your bassinet, I couldn’t help but to leave your bedroom door cracked slightly open. Even with a baby monitor, I needed more assurance. Everything about you, made me proud to call you my daughter. Your first words, your first steps, your first day of school. Oh, God, that first day. Watching you get on that school bus with those other children was so painful. For the first few years, your mother and I kept you so close, now we had to turn you over to the world of academia.
I still remember driving close behind the school bus. I just wanted to make sure you got to school safely. And you know what, this wasn’t the first time I followed close by. Remember the time you wanted to walk to school alone when you were in the second grade. I said sure sweetie, but I walked close by. No one was getting close to you because I was close by. I realized in that moment you were growing into your own much faster than I anticipated. And boy did you grow. Watching you grow over the years, those adolescent years came fast. The parties, the arguments, the dating; nothing a father was ready to deal with.
But it came and I dealt with it the best way I knew how. So here we are, celebrating your 18th birthday. From the moment you came home from the hospital, I watched you grow into a amazing young woman. Everything I do, everything I’ve ever done has been for you. You know it’s funny as a man raising a daughter you have so many fears. You’re never ready to hear, dad I met a guy. But with those fears came a whole new level of appreciation. You taught me so much: you taught me how to listen, you taught me how to care, but most of all, you taught me how to love.
And not the love I have for your mother, but the love that forced me to my knees when I witnessed you take your first steps as a baby. The love I felt when you participated in your first gymnastics competition. And the love I felt watching you receive that acceptance letter to the college of your choice.
I don’t want to take up too much of your time in class, but you must know how much I care. You know, when you’re young, you think your parents are nagging at you. But I only talk because I know the world you’re up against. I talk because anything you needed to know and still need to know I wanted you to come to me. I want to let you know that I can’t promise I’ll be on this earth everyday. But what I will promise is that as long as I am on this earth, I’ll always be around. Anytime you need me, I’ll never turn my back on you. We may disagree, even argue from time to time. But until my dying day, I am only a phone call away.
So for the rest of the day, enjoy. Keep me in your heart and mind because you are in mind. You may be 18 years old, but my love as a parent is eternal. No matter how old you get, you’re my child and I am your father. And for that, I am a better man because of it. Love you always, Dad.