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Perfect timing: ending of school and Father Day

What a big week: school ending Thursday, Father’s Day this Sunday.

This year was an important school year (as if they all aren’t) for my wife and me as our little girl entered kindergarten at Metolius Elementary. After nine months, I’m happy to report that all three of us survived.

My daughter’s school year really began on Labor Day, when we had to put down our 12-year-old lab, Meggie. It was Lesson No. 1 for her year in a way. She still visits the burial spot below our house, with fresh-picked dandelions or other backyard flowers. I don’t hear it as much as I did in the winter, but she will still, out of the blue, break silence by saying, “I miss my grandpa and Meggie.”

But there were a ton of much happier lessons over the next nine months.

Getting ready for school, and work, becomes a routine, right? Ours is this: I shower and throw on clothes, and it’s about seven. No way baby girl is jumping out of the sack, so I picked her up out of bed and carry her to the couch. (This ain’t happening in middle school, I’m thinking.) I set her down, turn on “Curious George,” grab her a banana, then feed her yogurt with granola. By 7:30, her mom has laid out some clothes for her (50-50 if there was going to be a fashion battle between the two). Mom’s duty also includes braiding/fixing the hair (75-25 that there’s going to be a mom-daughter tiff whether braiding/fixing entails intense pain or minor discomfort).

Then I’m hurrying her out the door as she and her mom make up. We jump in the truck and head toward school.

“Play a ’girl singing song’ on the radio,” she’ll ask anytime something other is on the tune box. But finding a “girl song” can be hard, even with about 75 music channels on satellite radio. I’ve found the ’80s channel to be my best shot.

Once at school, I walk her to front doors. For the first three months, that meant the south door. Then came the Newtown massacre in December, and Metolius Elementary limited access to one entrance, the north one. I really couldn’t effectively explain the reason why we suddenly had to change doors.

At the end of the school day, her mom usually had pickup duty. What did you do in school today, she’d always ask. “Nuthin’” or “I forgot” was the constant comeback. Our girl had learned in preschool the kid code of not sharing in-school details with parents.

But her parents knew different. Those kids were doing plenty in school. They had homework every night — every night, kindergarten! During the year, she learned to read, learned basic adding and subtracting, learned to count to 100, to count by 10s. She took Ethos piano lessons and played basic songs very cleanly. She did very well in school, it seemed. Not so well that we’d have to send her to brainiac school, but good, maybe above average, and she was happy and having fun. I was thrilled. All I learned in kindergarten was to try and avoid the dunce chair in the back corner.

Taking her to her final days of kindergarten this week, it’s easy to remember the morning her mom and I took her to the first day of school. All the kids gathered in the playground. She was eager but cautious, happy but shy. Now, nine months later, she’s just eager and happy, the caution and shyness are barely noticeable, still there, thankfully, but you have to know where to look for them.

As the school year winds down, with Father’s Day this Sunday, I’m ever thankful for my little girl, and so happy she learned and grew so much this year. To Metolius Elementary and its kindergarten teachers, great job, and thanks for such good care of my girl.

School has certainly enhanced her imagination. As an only child, she often has to entertain herself. Just the other night she was pretending she was jumping rope with friends. She tied one end of the rope to her bedpost and swung the other end. As she played the jump rope game, I was in the living room watching SportsCenter, and then I heard this coming from the room:

“Coke-a-cola, cherry on top, who’s your boyfriend, I forgot.”

“Who’s your what?” I called out from down the hall. She just laughed. My gawd, I thought. She’s not a baby anymore; she’s a full-fledged school girl. That’s the other thing about going to school — kids grow up there.

That’s one of the many reasons I’m glad it’s summer: we’ll get her back to enjoy some more dwindling, precious little girl time — and just in time for Father’s Day. On Sunday, I’m really hoping to get one of those “You’re my favorite dad” hugs that she gives. That’s really all I need — though I like to tease her mom that maybe a new dog might be a good Father’s Day present. Like my little girl, I miss Meggie and her grandpa, too.

Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere.



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