A Deep Lesson Learned

My daughter is getting married in June and given the opportunity I want to share the following story with some of her friends and guests.

When she was five I took her to the local park where she could play on some of the big toys: the long slide, towering swings, and the merry-go-round.

She no sooner got on the merry-go-round before a little boy pushed her off. As I stood there watching I was beside myself with outrage and anger. I thought, ‘Should I go throttle the little bastard?’ Or find and kick his dad’s ass? Or go comfort my child who stood there beside the ride looking down, obviously suffering from hurt feelings and humiliation.

I was a new parent and this was a new situation for me. All three options were frenetically bouncing around in my head when a quiet voice suddenly appeared out of nowhere. The voice – quiet and insistent – said, ‘Wait. Stop. Watch. And do nothing to interfere.’ The voice whispered, ‘If you do nothing you will be given the rare opportunity to see into the deepest depth of your child’s soul.’

In other words, if I stayed out of it I was going to see how my young daughter would handle the situation on her own. The question was, would she run to me in tears? Would she get angry? I didn’t know. But I knew the voice in my head was right. So I waited and watched.

Much to my pride and delight, she stood there for a minute before climbing back onto the merry-go-round to finish her ride.

I knew right then and there that I would never have to worry about life either scaring or cheating my daughter out of her taking her rightful place in the world.

So that’s the story. And here we are 23 years later and she’s proved me right time and time again.

In 11th grade – out of a high school of a thousand kids – she broke a 13 year long standing track and field record in the 2 mile event. Then she won a statewide creative writing competition which got her an all expense paid trip to Hawaii for a 5 day writing seminar. And that same scholastic year she was elected prom princess by her peers.

In 12th grade, as a senior, she broke her own 2 mile track and field record. A record which still stands unbroken to this day. And she was elected prom queen by her peers. The case of being prom princess her junior year followed by prom queen her senior year was a feat that had never happened before.

I reckon she didn’t win either or both because she was wildly popular – because she wasn’t – instead she won because she was respected and highly likeable. She has never presented an ego to anyone, in any situation. She is/was one of those remarkable people who just shuts up and gets the job done.

Oh, and she graduated valedictorian – first in her class.

She went on to do her undergrad at UC Davis in California. Her masters at G.W. University in Washington, DC and is finishing her PhD this summer at the Oregon State University.

She has published 5 papers as a grad student – ‘2 papers published is normal, 3-5 is marvelous, and anything beyond 5 is incredible,’ or so I’m told.

Her mentor and boss at OSU is sending her to Australia this month to do some joint research at the University of Melbourne. She’ll be there a month and a sixth paper will result. BTW – the typical grad student might get funded to travel to a stateside conference for a week. But a month in Australia? Nope. Never.

And she will publish one final paper before she graduates – for a total of seven. Which brings me to her husband-to-be.

Ryan is a bit of achiever himself. He’s 15 years older than Sarah and has been a fully tenured professor for the last ten years; something that only happen rarely and then only to the best researchers/academicians these days. He published seven papers as a grad student which is interesting because Sarah’s goal was to preferably beat him or at least tie him. (It made me smile when she told me that.)

Am I upset he’s robbing the cradle? Hell no. I am glad she’s marrying a man and not some twenty-something year old boy masquerading as a man.

They have a wonderful life together. They raise chickens, grow their own vegetables, make their own beer and have a wonderful group of friends who all share similar interests in and out of academia.

She bikes, runs, and rock-climbs. In fact she ran the Boston Marathon two years ago qualifying for it with a previous marathon time of 3:07.

Am I proud of her? Absolutely. And she is one of the nicest and most interesting people I have ever known. She is by far and away my favorite travel companion. I never tire of her company.

Am I surprised she has thus far led such a marvelous little life?

No. I got a glimpse of her potential at the age of five. Don’t get me wrong  – I am still amazed from time to time but not particularity surprised.  She has an inner strength of tempered steel which rarely percolates beyond her geniality. But it’s there all the same.

The world needs more people like her. People who don’t accept conventional limits. People who work hard. People who have goals. People who can take a punch and never (ever) give up.

That’s my daughter.

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