Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thoughts on my Daughter's Graduation

Last Friday, my daughter graduated from Wellesley High School.

Just as it was a milestone for her, it was a pivotal life event for her parents.

Lara was born 18 years ago.   We had no idea who she would be or what she would become.

During her early years, I was an Emergency Medicine resident.   The nature of shift work meant that I could spent at least 12 hours of every 24 hour cycle with her - reading, walking on the beach, going to the park, strolling the Los Angeles zoo, and playing her favorite computer games - Pajama Sam, Freddie Fish, and Spy Fox.

We moved to Massachusetts when she was 3, exactly 15 years ago this week.    My Emergency Medicine faculty and Informatics Fellow schedule enabled us to explore nature, hunt geocaches, and camp on the Boston Harbor Islands.

As I became a CIO, life became a bit more complicated, but every weekend we went to Drumlin Farm, Broadmoor, and other Audubon sites.

By the time she was an adolescent the time spent together evolved to time spent with her friends, extracurricular activities, and schoolwork.   I served as her transportation, advisor, and editor.

As she blossomed into an adult, we became peers, having honest and open dialog about relationships, world events, and the challenges ahead.

All along the path, we tried to give her the latitude to celebrate her own successes, learn from her own mistakes, and experience the many facets of the 21st century world - within limits that kept her from going seriously off track.

She begins college in just 2 short months, making decisions about when to sleep, what to eat, and how to study, all on her own.    Her house will be here whenever she wants to visit and her parents will be available whenever she wants to call.   We'll not have the pitter-patter of her feet on the stairs, the ebb and flow of her friends, or the vibrant but sometimes unpredictable schedules she added to our lives.

Her parents will garden, travel, rekindle their 30 years of romance together, plan for the future, and write checks for college.

Based on all my conversations with other parents, I know that this transition is truly not saying goodbye and declaring the end of parenthood.   It's the beginning of another chapter filled with new demands, more complex issues, and expanded possibilities.

As she graduates, the most important thing I can offer is my love and support, including a clear expectation of what I believe will constitute success in her next phase of life.   This poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson says it better than I can:


To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent;
people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest
critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child, a garden patch,
or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded

So Lara, congratulations on an extraordinary high school career.   Now, go define your own success.   We'll be here to beam with pride.


Andrew said...

Wow. That is an amazing post. Thanks for sharing with your followers Dr. Halamka.

Brian said...

Very nicely put and congratulations on this important milestone.

Anonymous said...

A beautiful tribute. I share your sentiments as I put my last of four out to pasture last evening and begin my empty nest phase. From previous experience, find comfort in knowing that even though they may travel half way around the globe, they never leave. Nor do we ever leave them! :)

Erik Moore said...

Congrats! My younger sister is graduating this Saturday, so I kind of feel the same way. Although I'm not a parent, I'd like to think by acting as a proper role model I have pushed her towards the right path.

Anonymous said...

Based on my own experience with our son 10 years ago, you've captured it just right.

Congratulations! this name at all associated with Dr. Zhivago? Just curious - one of our alltime favorite movies.

Mark said...

Beautiful. Good job on the father front doc.

Suki Tsui said...

Congratulations! You are such an amazing dad! I am sure your support and encouragement has a lot to do with her achievement and success.

Love the poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thanks for posting it.