I understand the whole parenting time warp thing and how it seemingly increases exponentially when it comes to single parenting, but this week it’s really hitting home.
My baby girl graduates from high school.
It seems like yesterday she was falling asleep on my chest after I’d returned from a late sports shift at the Tribune. It was yesterday she was in preschool, which is when our family split and I became a single parent of three and time became irrelevant to me.
With Nate, who graduated last year, it was different. Nate was adopted and his biological father was in town, and he had chose to live his senior year at his mom’s.
Jessica is my first-born. I held her first. I saw her through chicken pox, stitches in the head, surgery and other mishaps. But for the most part she has brought me great joy.
You could tell early on Jess was smart as a whip. I remember walking her in the stroller on the streets of Clarks Grove on Father’s Day 1994. She was 10 months old and had people staring as she excitedly babbled, “Daddy! Daddy!”
In kindergarten and beyond, Jessica tested in the 99th percentile. She was in the Spelling Bee four years in a row, finally winning it in 8th grade. She carried a 4.0 GPA into her junior year.
Something happened at that point. I’m not sure I’ll ever figure it all out, but somehow we arrived here and despite all the struggles, Jessica is set to graduate with honors. And I’m more than good with that.
The busy 18-year-old stopped in briefly on Tuesday for — you guessed it — money, and I asked her to write me a list of some of the highlights from when she was growing up. She spent about five minutes, came up with about 15 items, looked up and said, “Need more?”
Being a good parent has always been a big deal for me. I remember asking Jessica a number of times through the years to rate her childhood on a scale of 1 to 10. She always said 10. In retrospect, I know I tried too hard sometimes.
Her highlights included Christmases and birthdays, going to summer camp, seeing Bruce Springsteen at age 12, going to Chicago to see Steely Dan at 14, and vacations to Split Rock Lighthouse in Duluth and the Paul Bunyan Center in Brainerd.
Getting the cats was also a big deal. I remember well the evening we came home with them from my cousin’s farm, after much haggling between Dad and all three kids.
“We’ll come back and check on them next week,” I said.
“No we won’t!” said Jessica.
I knew she was right and caved.
“It’s the first time we outvoted Dad!” said Jess. My Aunt Esther (my dad’s twin sister) got a big kick out of that.
Looking back, I’m not sure I’d want to embark on that single-parenting odyssey again. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Who knows what the future holds for Jess. In 10 years she could be sitting at my desk, though that’s definitely not her plan.
I just thank the good Lord she’s my daughter.