From the Beginning to the Middle

5 years ago, Julianna was in Kindergarten.

Her first day did not go well. She cried hysterically and for all intents and purposes had to be pried off of us and “guided” into school. It feels like in each day since, there has been a steady improvement.

Last week, nearly 5 entire grades later, she stood on stage with 1 friend, in front of the entire school, and performed a hip-hop dance.

This week, she sang with the 4th grade chorus, including a small solo.

Tonight, she took to the high school stage, with children as young as 7 years old, teenagers who are about to head off to college, and even a handful of mothers, and participated in a 10-minute long hip-hop routine.

She stood on that stage, oozing all the right kinds of confidence and enthusiasm, and blew me away.

Often, when I write, I write about a particular event or a relatively short span of time. As I’ve watched her over the past few weeks getting ready to graduate from Elementary School and participate in all the various associated activities, I’ve found myself doing a lot of reflecting about how far she’s come as a person over the last 5 years.

It all came to a minor head after the talent show at school, when my wife and I ran into the guidance counselor in her school. This is the very same guidance counselor who helped pry Julianna away from us on Kindergarten Day 1. I remember feeling completely helpless in that moment and fearful that Julianna was going to have the same miserable Kindergarten experience that I vividly remember having. I remember 10 minutes later, getting a call from the guidance counselor telling us that everything was ok; that Julianna had helped her “carry a clipboard” and that she was doing fine. Over the years, we’ve had occasional contact with the guidance counselor but there was something about seeing her in the lobby of the school, just after the show and briefly reminiscing about how far Julianna has come from that first day.

I was thinking recently about the milestones we achieve as we grow up. I have a few co-workers who have young babies. One told me today he can’t wait until his 7-month old baby starts talking. When they are young, those milestones are fast and furious. The things to celebrate are generally obvious and relatively frequent: sitting up, first words, first steps, potty training, first eye-roll, etc. Julianna, at 10 years old and like most people, doesn’t have those “obvious” victories that we get all “goo-goo ga-ga” about.

As she performed tonight, I found myself leaning forward in my chair, totally transfixed but not on how great a dancer [I think] she is, but on how much she has grown as a person over the last handful of years.

She has 3.5 more days of Elementary School. In under 2 weeks she goes off to overnight camp for her 3rd summer, and this time for 7 weeks. When she comes back from camp, she’ll have a brief period of time off before she’ll begin a new adventure in Middle School.

I remember the first time I saw her perform on stage when she was a toddler in a ballet class. In that post, which was just over 7 years ago, I wrote:

Needless to say, we figured she’d love being able to stand up on a stage and perform for a large group of people.  We shall see…

I think that was, at the time, some form of wishful thinking but here she is, doing exactly that and doing it with a giant smile on her face. Again though, it isn’t about the dance steps but rather, the confidence to get up there on stage, and the joy she exudes from being there.

I enjoy celebrating the details, the achievements, and the milestones. As they naturally happen less frequently, I am now having to enjoy the spaces between those things and figuring out what they mean for her.

Sometimes, its easy, or maybe comfortable, to zoom in and look for, and find, baby steps; to see the trees.

In the last few weeks, with tonight being the cherry on top, I’ve found myself zooming out and having a better appreciation for Julianna’s bigger picture; the forest: the person she is and the person she’ll become.

When I saw her after the show tonight, I told her how proud I was of her.

I was proud of her for the work she put in, for getting up there on stage, and for performing so beautifully. Most of all, I was, am, and always will be proud of her for being the person that she is.