Parenting & Fatherhood

A Happy 22nd Birthday Tribute to My Daughter (and me too!)

A Happy 22nd Birthday Tribute to My Daughter (and me too!)

My middle daughter Rachel is twenty two (22) years old today. I find it difficult to fathom that I actually have a daughter in her twenties. But fact is, I have three daughters and two sons.  I have raised all 5 of them for the past 18 years as a sole and single parent. So today, while she is roaming around Manhattan with her younger sister, Sara, and her boyfriend, Harry, I reflect…

I remember back to the early part of 1997. Rachel’s mom had left the house for good, in a display of erratic, ugly, abusive and finally diagnosed personality disorder, behavior. All the children were traumatized and acting out in different ways. Rachel’s “worst” was her constant crying over everything. “Rach, tie your shoes.” would cause a fall to the ground and a wail. “Rachel, no more cookies.” could cause a flood of tears on the kitchen floor.

I remember being afraid that crying trait would last her whole life. What would all of this do to her? Would she ever trust again? Would she be mad at me? Would she be an adult wimp (for me that’s as bad a quality as one of my children could have)? Would she be a loser? I know how tough a place this world can be and how hard it is to have a happy life with a successful career; the kind that any father would want for her daughter so she didn’t have to rely on anyone. Crybabies, turn into unhappy, unsuccessful people in life. I prayed she wasn’t one.

Rebecca Bat Mitvah 2006

Rachel Bat Mitzvah 2006

Meanwhile, let me brag a little about what Rachel has accomplished so far. In high school she won a prestigious NSA Scholarship and spent the summer after her junior year in Shanghai, China, She was picked best foreign language student at Millburn High School, one of the most competitive high schools in the country. In August she graduated from George Washington University, Elliott School of International Affairs, magna cum laude. She did that in a money-saving-for-dad 3 years. But most importantly, she has become who she always was – that same sweet, kind, and loving person I remember as a child.

Rebecca HS Graduation 2011

Rachel HS Graduation 2011

Tonight she’ll come home on the train from NYC, we’ll go see the NJ Devils’ hockey game together and do our usual birthday weekend of dinner with all of my children, and some kind of family event, which looks like it will be apple picking. How blessed am I that my amazing “adult” daughter wants to spend her birthday with me?  Very, Blessed to know there is no perfect parent  but there is an unwavering  dedication to our children if we are looking for it,  some kind of divine intervention that has far more control over our their futures or our own than we can ever imagine.

I wish I had the experience and wisdom then I have now because I would have enjoyed the Rachel’s early crying a whole lot more. I know she may be embarrassed by my writing that here, but heck, she was only 5 years old and her mother had just abandoned her  How much healthier a reaction could there have been for this aching child?

Today, on her birthday, I look at pictures taken over the past 22 years and take note at her growth into a strong and wise young adult. I now realize that beautiful and successful child was always in there. I was the one that had to grow to be able to see and appreciate what I have in her – and myself.

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3 replies »

  1. Matt, this is one of the most touching things I have heard from you. I knew you are full of them, but to express that in a blog after all you’ve been through – it takes some.

    And Rebecca – happy birthday girl! You rock already. And I look forward to seeing great things from you :-*
    BTW 22 is a magic number!

    Liked by 1 person

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