That's not a tear, I just have something in my eye

Yesterday I attended my fourteen-year-old daughter's last dance recital. I say "last" because she is heading to high school next year at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem where she will focus on music, specifically the clarinet. She has made it clear to us that she sees her future in music, not dance, and that she is ready to move on to the next chapter in her life.

The next chapter? At age fourteen?

As I watched her dance in her three performances, so much flashed before my eyes. I recalled her first dance classes as a three-year-old. For three solid weeks all she did was stand there stiff as a board, unwilling to participate with the other girls as the teacher was instructing them in all the finer points of dance that a three-year-old can digest. Finally, my wife laid the gauntlet down - either you dance or we're going home for good! Miraculously, from that moment forward dancing was never an issue with her.

Memories of her first recital, with the poofy costumes and the awkward but unbelievably cute dance moves, came to mind. For a moment she was my little girl again, complete with glitter and feather costumes that served as dress-up play clothes for years to come. Then when the littlest girls from the dance school came on stage after my daughter's performances, it was like a flashback to the past and I saw her again as my little girl up on the stage with them. I'm not gonna lie, I may have had a tender moment right then and there.

This is not unique to just my second oldest child - I am living through it with all four of my children as they grow up before my eyes way too quickly. And it's not that our children don't need me and my wife anymore, it's just that they now need us in different ways. "Mommy" and "Daddy" have been replaced by "mom" and "dad" and hand holding has been supplanted by hand outs. When my wife and I started to have children, I remember someone saying to us that we would blink and they would be grown up. I never realized how right that person would be.

As of this past Friday I now have a junior in high school who is bravely going to a new school in Wilmington next year; a freshman in high school who will be four hours away at the UNCSA; a fifth grader who is one step away from middle school; and a fourth grader who is smarter than I could ever hope to be.

I wish I could stop blinking but I find that I have something wet in my eyes that forces me to close them on occasion.


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