To My Daughter on Her 18th Birthday

Collage AEighteen years ago you came into my life unexpectedly. An opportunity out of the blue. I wasn’t trying to be a father, but then I heard about you – a baby girl in need of a home. It was truly one of those “meant to be” moments. You and I were in the right place at the right time. A week after I heard of your existence, I saw you for the first time. From the moment I picked you up, I knew you were my daughter. It was truly love at first sight.

You were the happiest, healthiest and easiest baby and toddler I’ve ever known. For the first years of your life, your nickname was Happy Chick. I don’t think there is a picture of you from that time that doesn’t include your smile. Everyone who met you loved you, and you loved them back. Strangers would ask to hold you and give you gifts. When you were about 2 and in your occasional daycare, Benny (who was around 3) told your Papa he wanted to marry you when he grew up. Our mailman would walk up to the house singing songs to you when you were playing on the front porch. You had that effect on people.

Collage BBeing your father has been the most wonderful, challenging, rewarding, scariest and proudest part of my life. I have never loved anyone so deeply, nor been as committed to anyone so fully, as I have you. I worry about you in a completely unreasonable manner. You frustrate and anger and disappoint me often, but only because I love and worry about and hope for so much for you. You won’t fully understand what that means unless you have children of your own someday. Just know that I am so happy to have you in my life.

I have watched you grow from a helpless infant to a curious toddler, from a playful child to an inquisitive schoolgirl, and from a blossoming teen to a young woman. You are curious and creative, imaginative and funny. You are loyal and fearless, loving and strong. From teaching you to add to teaching you to drive, helping you with homework and helping you fill out your first job applications, you have challenged and taught me as well. Because of you, I have discovered wells of patience, pride, self-control and acceptance I never knew I had.

Collage CThis year you will be able to vote for the first time. You will be considered an adult in the eyes of the world, capable of making your own decisions and choosing your own path. I watch you struggle between craving that freedom and yearning for the safety of childhood. Know that I will always be here for you, no matter what. I will allow you to make your own mistakes, not because I don’t care, but because I do. You will learn to make your way through life on your own abilities, based on your own direction. Don’t be afraid.

Most of all I want you to know how much I love you. I hope you understand how proud I am of you. You continually overcome life’s challenges, pick yourself up, and try again. This is a big birthday, a major milestone. You’ve made it this far, and you can make it so much further. You truly can do anything you want to do in this world – it’s up to you. Happy 18th birthday, Julia.

I love you more than I can say –

Dad

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