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A Wonderful Chapter

May 9, 2008

As any parent with more than one child will tell you, no two children are the same. I have been reminded of that over and over again for the past 18 years.

Our oldest daughter, now a sophomore in college, has what I often hear referred to as "first child syndrome". She is driven, intense, some might even say tightly-wound. Her room is always clean, her homework done early. She is obsessive about detail, always looking for the next thing to do.

Enter daughter number two. She is, to be fair, distinctly different than her older sister. And any attempt, no matter how well intentioned, to turn her into daughter number one will be met with stiff resistance. Less concerned about the state of her room or the fact that Sunday night is nearly history and Monday's homework has yet to be started, let alone finished, she tends to take life more in stride, sometimes to the chagrin of her "Type A" father. And yet, she possesses an infectious lightheartedness that makes her a joy to be around.

This week, my baby girl will graduate from high school. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I tend to be a little sentimental about milestones and this is no exception. I admit to not being ready for the so called "empty nest". And while I acknowledge the different parenting experience that both daughters presented, I don't regret a minute of these past 21 years, and I couldn't adore either of them any more.

When we gather with family and friends to honor Larissa at graduation this month, we will be doing the same thing thousands of parents across South Dakota will be doing. We will share memories of soccer weekends, track meets, and piano recitals. There will be laughter and there will be tears, but mostly there will be a heartfelt sense of gratitude that the good Lord blessed us with the chance to be along for this great ride. Nothing I have done in life or ever will do can compare to the joy that comes with being Brittany and Larissa's dad.

As bittersweet as I find the conclusion to this chapter in life, I can't help but think of something I saw distributed by Carole Hillard's family at her funeral last year. They called them "Carole's Refrigerator Thoughts." One read, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." Thanks Carole, I am going to try really hard.

As for Larissa, this is her time. No more comparisons to her big sister, no more homework czar, no one telling her how to run the quarter mile, as if anyone really can. At long last, she's prepared to start the next chapter of her life. That said, her zip code may change, but as long as God gives me breath, she will always be my little L.T.