Senator John ThuneThis month thousands of South Dakota high school seniors will don a cap and gown and walk across the stage in ceremonies all across our state, leaving behind a past they have known for a future yet unknown. I remember making that walk across Murdo's auditorium stage 27 years ago like it happened yesterday. My how time flies! This year I will be there again, this time looking on, as my little girl passes that same milestone in her life.
Like most parents, it's a bittersweet experience. I know that time eventually comes -- for me it just seems like it came too soon. I admit to not being ready to say goodbye to that little freckled, red-haired girl who has graced our lives these past many years.
Like many of you, I've sat at I don't know how many ballet recitals to get a two minute glimpse of her performance. Many people can probably relate to listening to hours and hours of practicing for piano lessons and recitals. I steadied her on her first successful bike ride without training wheels, and treaded water in the pool until she finally made her first dive. I watched her try playing basketball (mostly to satisfy me) and soccer before finding her real love -- track and cross country.
I've seen her limp across the finish line dead last at the state track meet due to a painful injury. When I stood hugging her after the race I asked her why she even ran that race if she was in so much pain. Through tears she said, "Dad, the only reason I ran is because I didn't want you to think I was a wimp."
I've seen her bounce back from that experience the following year to stand on the medal stand at the state meet. I've watched her highest hopes and expectations this year be dashed by not one, but two stress fractures, sidelining her for most of her senior season and turning even the shortest run into a pain-filled experience.
Through the ups and the downs, she's always been my little girl. Through adversity, she has learned humility and her faith in God has made her stronger. There is no greater satisfaction as a parent than watching your child experience hardship and failure, yet emerge with the heart of a champion.
There is a finality in knowing that my first born is about to leave my care and supervision and head out on her own. I'm excited that she will be starting a whole new chapter in life, but sad that this chapter that has so enriched our lives is coming to a close. Forgive me for wanting to do it all over again, but I do. My greatest joy and fulfillment in life has been having a courtside seat at every one of my daughters' formative experiences.
To all my fellow parents who may share a similar emotion this year or have had this experience already, thanks for being there for your children. And if you have the good fortune, like I do, of having a few years left with your other children, make the most of every moment. I've been called a lot of things in life, good and bad, but the sweetest sound to my ears will always be the word "dad".