We Have Ruined Childhood

For youngsters these days, an hour of free play is like a drop of water in the desert. Of course they’re miserable.

According to the psychologist Peter Gray, children today are more depressed than they were during the Great Depression and more anxious than they were at the height of the Cold War. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression rose by more than 60 percent among those ages 14 to 17, and 47 percent among those ages 12 to 13. This isn’t just a matter of increased diagnoses. The number of children and teenagers who were seen in emergency rooms with suicidal thoughts or having attempted suicide doubled between 2007 and 2015.

To put it simply, our kids are not O.K.

For a long time, as a mother and as a writer, I searched for a single culprit. Was it the screens? The food? The lack of fresh air and free time, the rise of the overscheduled, overprotected child, the overarching culture of anxiety and fear?

Those things might all contribute. But I’ve come to believe that the problems with children’s mental and emotional health are caused not by any single change in kids’ environment but by a fundamental shift in the way we view children and child-rearing, and the way this shift has transformed our schools, our neighborhoods and our relationships to one another and our communities.

The work of raising children, once seen as socially necessary labor benefiting the common good, is an isolated endeavor for all but the most well-off parents. Parents are entirely on their own when it comes to their offspring’s well-being. Many have had to prioritize physical safety and adult supervision over healthy emotional and social development.

No longer able to rely on communal structures for child care or allow children time alone, parents who need to work are forced to warehouse their youngsters for long stretches of time. School days are longer and more regimented. Kindergarten, which used to be focused on play, is now an academic training ground for the first grade. Young children are assigned homework even though numerous studies have found it harmful. STEM, standardized testing and active-shooter drills have largely replaced recess, leisurely lunches, art and music.

The role of school stress in mental distress is backed up by data on the timing of child suicide. “The suicide rate for children is twice what it is for children during months when school is in session than when it’s not in session,” according to Dr. Gray. “That’s true for suicide completion, suicide attempts and suicidal ideas, whereas for adults, it’s higher in the summer.” But the problems with kids’ mental and emotional health are not only caused by what goes on in the classroom. They also reflect what’s happening in our communities. The scarcity of resources of every kind, including but not limited to access to mental health services, health care, affordable housing and higher education, means that many parents are working longer and harder than ever. At the same time that more is demanded of parents, childhood free time and self-directed activities have become taboo.

And so for many children, when the school day is over, it hardly matters; the hours outside school are more like school than ever. Children spend afternoons, weekends and summers in aftercare and camps while their parents work. The areas where children once congregated for unstructured, unsupervised play are now often off limits. And so those who can afford it drive their children from one structured activity to another. Those who can’t keep them inside. Free play and childhood independence have become relics, insurance risks, at times criminal offenses.

Tali Raviv, the associate director of the Center for Childhood Resilience, says many children today are suffering a social-skills deficit. She told me kids today “have fewer opportunities to practice social-emotional skills, whether it’s because they live in a violent community where they can’t go outside, or whether it’s because there’s overprotection of kids and they don’t get the independence to walk down to the corner store.” They don’t learn “how to start a friendship, how to start a relationship, what to do when someone’s bothering you, how to solve a problem.”

 

Many parents and pediatricians speculate about the role that screen time and social media might play in this social deficit. But it’s important to acknowledge that simply taking away or limiting screens is not enough. Children turn to screens because opportunities for real-life human interaction have vanished; the public places and spaces where kids used to learn to be people have been decimated or deemed too dangerous for those under 18.

And so for many Americans, the nuclear family has become a lonely institution — and childhood, one long unpaid internship meant to secure a spot in a dwindling middle class.

Something has to change, says Denise Pope, a co-founder of Challenge Success, an organization based in Palo Alto, Calif., that helps schools make research-backed changes to improve children’s mental health. Kids need recess. They need longer lunches. They need free play, family time, meal time. They need less homework, fewer tests, a greater emphasis on social-emotional learning.

Challenge Success also works with parents, encouraging them to get together with their neighbors and organize things like extracurricular-free days when kids can simply play, and teaching them how not to intervene in normal peer conflict so that children can build problem-solving skills themselves. A similar organization, Let Grow, helps schools set up unstructured free play before and after the school day.

Dr. Gray told me it’s no surprise that the program, which he consults for, has been well received. “Children are willing to get up an hour early to have free play, one hour a week,” he said. “It’s like a drop of water if you’ve been in the desert.”

These groups are doing important work, but if that kind of desperation is any indication, we shouldn’t be surprised that so many kids are so unhappy. Investing in a segment of the population means finding a way to make them both safe and free. When it comes to kids, we too often fall short. It’s no wonder so many are succumbing to despair. In many ways, America has given up on childhood, and on children.

 

This blog has been dating and relationships for years. Should I start to write some more self help pieces like this?

 

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Kita – Chapter 38 – Second Date – Xmas – Part 2

Somehow the subject of sugar babies comes up. I may have been talking about a couple of girls I have spoken to in the salon and they have told me about their exploits. I obviously don’t speak graphically about it. It just sort of came up. She finds the idea of girls doing that revolting and has too much self esteem and virtue. She said she could never do that.

(Isn’t it sort of happening between us?)

We start chatting about how excited she is to go to Florida for the winter break. She loves the warmth of the temperature down there. She misses her dog Sadie and can’t wait to drive around in her Jeep. She tells me she’ll probably just rest, workout, try to eat better, walk her dog, and cruise around in her jeep. She misses driving!

Best part is, she won’t have to do any studying, write any papers, or go to any classes. Just fun in the sun. She will probably be as brown as a penny when she comes back to Philly in a month.

Funny thing is, I don’t hear about anything else. I know she likes tanning and getting dark. I know she likes to eat and digs snacks. She says her mom loves snacks too. Her mother once went looking for snacks in Kita’s room and discovered some condoms. I love the idea of Kita having condoms. (Just suiting up with a condom before plunging into her.)

But I digress…

She works out everyday. I guess what I’m saying here is, Kita is going to do exactly what she does up here as she’ll do down there. I didn’t hear anything about friends or going out or anything.

I think our lovely little Kita may be a bit of a bore. I think I see how a man could tire of her once he’s had sex with her. What do you do with her? She’s very indecisive, needy, sober, etc. Not very fun.

But here’s the thing. I’m attracted to her. I’ve never had her. I want her. She’s adorable and spends time with me. That’s pretty nice for me.

I’ll just keep writing about her until I figure it all out.

 

Near the end of the meal I ask her a question.

“Kita, I like you and enjoy your company. I appreciate you joining me for lunch today. I’d like to meet up with you and see you outside of the salon again. It can be food or we can go to Dave & Busters like we talked about that. I’d like us to do that on a regular basis. Would you like that?”

“Yes. Yes, we can definitely do that. I’d like that.”

That’s all I needed.

The bill comes, and of course I am delighted to pay. She loved her Salmon salad, and polished off the last of the mac and cheese I got for us to split. I liked when she picked up the spoon and dug the last dollop out of the bowl and put it in her sweet mouth.

 

She’s summoning her UBER and it’s rapidly approaching. We get ourselves together and head outside into the winter afternoon sunlight. She has to go write a paper for her finals, and I have to get to the salon.

“Oh it’s here! Gimme kiss!”

I take her lovely visage in my hands and peck her plump lips, and she’s off.

I start walking east on JFK Blvd. and light a cigarette. I reflect on the day and my relationship with Kita.

I buy special snacks and fruit for her. I always have a little something there for her to munch on. I give her free water to fill up her water bottle. I took her out to a posh dinner. I bought her a special bronzing lotion to better tan her. I bought her pepper spray and showed her how to use it to help keep her safe in the city. Now I’ve taken her out to lunch and discussing future dates and activities for us to do together.

 

Oh my God.

 

Kita is my sugarbaby!

 

 

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Go on a Date, Girl asks me to do her Homework Instead

this happened several years ago.

My friends had been trying to get me on Tinder for a while. I wasn’t really into it but because I wasn’t dating anyone at the time but I decided to download the app. Pretty quickly I matched with this girl that I thought was really cute and started chatting with her. Now there were some red flags I should have noticed such as that she was pretty immature for her age and one of the main people she hung out with was around 13 to 14.

But I thought oh well, it’s probably not a big deal and I made plans to meet up with her. This was pretty early in my dating experience so I didn’t really know much about making good plans, so I just asked her what there was to do in her town (it was about an hour away from the city where I live). She told me just to meet her on her college campus. Cool, I thought, we can walk around and go to a Starbucks.

I get there and I wondered if I was at the right place because it looked like a high school, turns out it was some sort of small town community college building. The building was standalone, there was no other buildings and the floor was black and white checkered tile so you get the idea it was basically a high school.

When I got there, I asked her about it, but she said let’s just sit and talk in this student lounge. She sat down, pulled out her laptop, and asked me to help her on her homework.

Background: I had told her that I was majoring AND a tutor in a certain field, which she also happened to be majoring in, and she told me she needed some help. I was pretty passionate about this field so I told her I could help her a little bit. We’d FaceTimed once and I gave her a couple minutes of help, but I was of the understanding that when we met up we were going to be getting to know each other and not doing any homework.

I tried to explain the concepts to her but she said forget it and opened up a timed test and asked me to help her with that. I tried to explain it, but the simplest concepts went over her head and I ended up slowly doing it for her, a fact that I was not happy about and I told her so. She’s like, yeah I know you’re doing it for me and that’s okay. I was like, no it’s not. Then she started stroking my legs and arms and I told her that I couldn’t focus on helping her when she was doing that. She stopped touching me for a couple minutes but was soon back to doing it again. At this point I’m just trying to finish the test and get out of there, and finally the time runs out and she got a 40% on the test largely because I’d been spending most of my time trying to explain concepts and I thought she’d be angry, but she was really happy. She told me wow, I usually only get half that score!

At this point I was ready to leave, but she followed me out to the car (her car was next to mine) and basically the first thing she told me was that she was not a virgin and she thought I wouldn’t want to date her and would think she was filthy because of that. I told her that it didn’t really matter to me at all whether she was a virgin or not and then I don’t remember how the conversation went but I left soon after that. I should have told her I wasn’t interested in going out again right there but I knew how virginity is something that is overly prized in some Christian circles (which she was obviously a part of) and I didn’t want to reinforce her thinking that people thought less of her because she wasn’t one so I didn’t say anything then. I also considered trying to go out again, at that time I thought that I was being overly picky with women and I just needed to give them more chances.

That night, she told me to let her know if I didn’t want to MARRY her right away and not to lead her on and that really tipped the scales that I needed to say something right away. I called her on the phone the next day and told her I didn’t want to go out again, and I told her it was because we didn’t share any interests. To which she replied that we absolutely didn’t need to share any, we could go out and do our own thing and then come home to each other every night. I told her that to me the most important thing in a relationship was being able to share conversations and experiences and she tried to convince me that it wasn’t.

I don’t know a good way to wrap up the story besides that she was angry and we didn’t really talk again. I could have definitely benefited by more experience in this situation, but still, it was the first and only time I’ve ever been asked to do homework on a date so it was pretty memorable.

 

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Tales of Rock – The Offspring Lead Singer Dexter Holland is a Pretty Awesome Dude!

I loved researching this story! One of my favorites!

Bryan “Dexter” Holland is the kind of dude who, if he can’t get into a rock show, grabs a buddy and starts The Offspring. Half a decade later, he was signed with Epitaph Records to join NOFX and Rancid, with whom his band is partly credited for bringing punk rock back into the angst-dripping hearts of suburban kids who really don’t have much to complain about except the emptiness of their idle middle-class lives. To go down that road, however, he had to give up a pretty straight-arrow career path of over-achieving drudgery that probably would have given him some of his best moody material–and a sick minivan to go with it.

Dexter, as it turns out, grew up in the high-rent suburbs West Garden Grove, California.

He went to Pacifica High School and, instead of setting fires and declaring anarchy, went ahead and graduated as valedictorian instead. He went on to the University of Southern California, became a pre-med student and eventually got his Master’s Degree in molecular biology. (WOW!) He was actually on the way to a Ph.D. before dropping out to follow his dream of throwing glistening globs of his own biological molecules all over screaming audiences night after night.

In his spare time he decided to also become a licensed airline pilot and flew himself around the world. Hey, why not?

Dexter Holland is one awesome dude!

 

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Cherie – Chapter 48 – Better to Give… Part 1

I’m in Awe…

Baby is determined to try to get down here this weekend. I think she’s shooting for Friday night when I finish at the salon. She says she has to go back around 11am or noon on Saturday, which is choice. Because that gives me time with her Friday night into Saturday for some greatest hits. I like this, because once she goes I’m off for the rest of the day from everything.

My daughter tells me we need paper towels for the kitchen. I’m a little curious about this because my vegan daughter Lorelei now owns my kitchen and uses all of the paper towels. I never touch a single one. But as a child who is nearly twenty-one she thinks all household stuff is paid for by parents.

I love her and I’m fine with it. I’m happy she’s my daughter.

I go to Walgreen’s and pick up two rolls of paper towels, a can of Axe body spray, (Phoenix. You’re welcome Axe or… I’m sorry Axe) A bag of kettle corn, (Cravings lately. Unexplained. Just love that stuff. It’ll pass.) condoms and a pack of cigs.

As I approach the counter I hope the cashier doesn’t put some sort of story together based on my purchases today…

Oh, this guy needs Axe body spray to attract a mate, and then he’s buying condoms in the hope he closes, and then he’s buying cigarettes to smoke after the sex. 

Or… He will eat the entire bag of kettle corn watching Netflix alone tonight when he fails miserably at the bar, using the paper towels to mop up his tears.

 

I’m at the salon on Friday and it’s quiet. A welcome repose from Thursday. It was busy yesterday night. I loved it. We made money, some of my favorite people stopped in, and the night flew by.

Cherie is on the train and on her way down to the city for the night. I lock up at 8pm and settle the drawer. She’s never been to the new salon. She texts me to ask whether she should come to me or head to my house.

I give her the address and tell her to come to the salon. I lock the doors and turn off the lights in the hallway. I hit the flashlight feature on my phone and head down the steps. The door downstairs opens and it’s Cherie!

She’s already off the train and here! I come down and give her a hug and a kiss. I’m so happy to see her. She looks great as always. Dark locks and sexy lips and hips. I’ve missed her. I’ve been thinking about her a lot this week.

Once I knew she confirmed for Friday night my hunger for her grew.

If you’ve been reading this blog you already know that I’ve accepted the fact that we can’t always be together. That’s just the way it is now. Cherie’s in school, working at the hospital, and taking care of her son. Just a full schedule.

But somehow love survives and thrives between us. A playful sweet love that has been built on a rich history over the last year. Our one year anniversary just happened two weeks ago. You would think that would be a time for great celebration and jewelry.

But she was in class and then at CHOP (Children’ Hospital) doing blood work for sick kids, and I was in meetings with an app company about selling their products in this market.

Cherie had to grow up fast in her twenties. Once you have a kid, that changes you if you’re made from anything good. Cherie is. She said to me tonight her son’s father doesn’t spend enough time with him and the support is light. I told her that I thought her ex had a good job and made decent money. She said he has five kids from two different ex-wives so he’s basically broke all the time.

“He’s white, right?”

(Laughs) “Yea. But my son is last on the list when it comes to support or time.”

“I’m sorry. But I’ve been divorced. Support is based on how many overnights he has with the child and how much income he earns. You can go to court and make him pay. It’s just a math equation.”

“You forget that we never married over the time we were together. There’s nothing in place for me to enforce it. I’m basically a single mother.”

By this point I’m lying next to her on my bed. We’re just talking before anything happens here. Her beautiful dark, almond eyes glisten with tears.

But no tears fall. She looks at me calmly describing her plight. She only blinks between statements.

My girlfriend is resolute.

“If my son’s father is going to fail and continue to fail as a father to his son with me, then I have to be the best mother I can to him.” She breathes deeply, never taking her eyes from mine. I see in her a strength I don’t know in anyone else I know. She means what she says and there’s no other choice for her. Cherie knows that because she’s lived in a world where she can count on no one but herself.

Her mom, dad and sister are great, but at the end of the day she knows she’s really the only one in her son’s life. This has been the painful and triumphant journey of many black women through history.

She’s beside me, her head supported by her hand on her side. I am lying on my back looking up to her. I realize in that moment, I truly am looking up to her.

She’s calm, and her words are sure. I love her. I love her so much in this moment. Looking upon her sheer will to survive.

I’m in awe.

 

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Sun Stories: Kita – Chapter 2 – Art Imitates Life

Kita  –  Madiera High School

Sometimes writing this blog is a grind. Most of the time it is an absolute pleasure and has become a form of therapy.  When you live in your relationships you can’t really see what’s happening. When you think about it you still don’t have it, because your lost in your feelings and thoughts. When you tell your friends about it there’s something in that, but when you write about it you get it all out. There’s a clarity and finality that comes from that. When you take a pen to paper or hand to keyboard, you finally get it all out. You’ve documented what’s happening today and what’s happened to you in the past. By writing about the experience, you finally tell the story and resolve it. You get it all out. You can fire off all of your feelings and let it go. It’s amazing and feels so good. This has been a cathartic exercise for me and I’m so happy I finally dug in and told all of these stories.

Rather than carry them around with me in my head, it’s a glorious dopamine rush and an opportunity to spend these rounds here on WordPress.  It’s like you’ve been carrying heavy groceries of good and bad products from your life and you finally get the opportunity to set them down and take a rest. You pick up the good food and take it home with you and leave the rotten fruit at the curb. It’s been a beautiful journey and I appreciate all of you reading this right now who have chosen to join me on this journey.

I normally only write about people I know. But I wrote about little Kita having just met her at the salon. I guess I was just so taken by her. I felt a connection even though she’s only 21. Don’t worry dear reader I’m not after her. I just love her in the classic phicklephilly way. It’ll pass once she stops tanning here or goes home.

But something miraculous happened.

Kita came in to tan last Sunday. Of course I was delighted to see her sweet face. She looked lovely. White blouse, Little black shorts that showcased her lovely shapely legs and sandals. Cute as a button. My heart was aflutter. She says she’s not doing a spray tan today, and only wants UV. No problem. We discuss the different beds and she decides to give the Alpha another chance. I ask her if she ever uses a bronzer lotion. She says not normally but will try one. I give her Tahitian Bronze which is the best lotion in the house.

We chit-chat a bit more and then I send her into room 1.

When she comes out instead of leaving she starts chatting with me. It’s Sunday. She should be out doing what she does when she’s not going to school. Thankfully it’s dead this time of year and she and I sit in the waiting area.

I love this! (I get to see those lovely legs!)

She’s originally from Washington DC. She’s an adopted child and so is her sister, They’re not related and it happened when they were age 3. They are both Chinese. Her father and mother are both career Navy. Dad’s an Admiral that has sat with the former President Obama and has the pictures to prove it. This guy’s sounds like he’s the man.

Kita and her sister Jill attended The Madeira School, Washington, District Of Columbia. Kita loves to talk about herself and tell me her little stories about her life. I’m just happy to smile and listen because she’s so darn cute.

Madeira students and sisters Kita ’15 and Jill ’16 competed in the Savageman Triathlon, a fundraiser to fight melanoma with the motto “A savage race to fight a savage cancer.” The competition took place on September 14 and 15 at Deep Creek Lake, MD, and consisted of a 0.9 mile swim, 22.9 mile bike ride, and 6.2 mile run. In the photo she is standing with her older sister Jill and her dad who appears to be a Vice Admiral in the Navy. (Funny, she competed in a triatholon to fight melanoma but loves to go tanning!)

She also was on the Women’s Lacrosse team at Madeira High. She was also proficient at track and field. She ran the 100 meter in 13.84. That’s impressive.

Kita later did an internship at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

Kita spent her Co-Curriculum at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington doing research for events, clicker training dogs, and sitting in on animal adoption interviews. During her time there, Katy’s interest in the business component of the shelter grew and she was eager to learn more about the hiring process and personnel management. In learning how an animal control shelter runs, Kita said she had the opportunity to learn more about public service and employee work ethic.

Back then she was in high school and was a teenager with dark brown hair. Not the blonde, lean young woman she is today that stirs my loins.

She has more to tell me and wants to share about her current relationship. She’s been with JR since she was 17 and I’m sure he punched her V card.

There is nostalgic love there but there are problems. The relationship is ripping at the seams because they are growing apart and she needs advice. I will be that elder to help her on her journey is she’s willing.

I think she is and she’s spent over an hour here sitting with me and has moved from top five to number one in my book. I can’t wait to hear more about the romantic life of this lovely waif.

She bids me farewell to go workout. She works out everyday. Her body is proof. I am euphoric that this lovely lady has chosen to spend time with an old bull like me. Kita says she likes talking to people and learning new things. Kita is a ripe canvas that I think I can help navigate the dark waters of romance and relationships.

She left and I am still high from her beauty. I want to learn more about her and where she is in her life. She asks what shifts I work and says she will come in when I’m working. I love helping people so I am compelled to try to offer Kita my assistance I can in regard to matters of the heart.

She comes from a good family, but if there is any wisdom I can offer I will to help guide her forward. I know my intentions are always true but she is so beautiful I am drawn to her. It’ll go nowhere and she’ll go forward but if I can help her I will. I have my own love life to manage.

You have no idea, but I love you Kita, just like I loved Maria. (Maria – 2016 to Present – Amor En Vano)

I want to learn more about you!

Your legs are lovely!

Phicklephilly!

 

 

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Lorelei – My Daughter – Happy Valentine’s Day

What can I say on Valentine’s Day to my daughter?

First on and foremost lets see what Valentines day really is.

I created the link so I don’t have to deal with it.

There will be flowers, chocolate and missing my girlfriend this year.

What are you all up to?

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine%27s_Day

 

Valentine’s day is here and my girlfriend is in Japan with her family so I have no one to celebrate the stupid created money grab holiday with.

So who do I love?

Of course! It’s so easy. My daughter, Lorelei!

So I’ll just write to her today.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, love.

You are the light of my life, and even though you rose from a broken marriage, we both loved you so much.

I can’t speak for your mom but I love you more that I love myself, and I know she does too.

As crazy and difficult anything has been between your mom and me, we both love you and would give our lives to protect you in this world.

 

I forgive your mom for everything, and I hope she is smiling right now.

 

Life is way too short to be bitter about anything.

 

I’m so happy that you and Brad have been in a relationship for over 4 years now! (We love him! He gets to come to Christmas every year at Janice’s house!)

You have worked from the day you graduated high school, and been so consistent in everything you’ve pursued.

You’ve been in the same job for the last two years and have outlasted most of your coworkers, and you’ve been promoted.

 

I’m so proud of you my only daughter.

 

You’ve been in the arts since you were 4 years old. Singing, choir, acting, drama, shows, and plays non-stop. Theater Camp, and then high school plays, non-stop.

You came to me at 18 to escape the clutches of your mom and flourished here in Philly.

I love that, because we both made great decisions to come to this city for retribution and rebirth. Me in 2007, and you in 2015. Our family is from here and we belong here.

 

You and I had a great conversation tonight about how you have been making music again in your life.

Lor, you are a brilliant singer, but as an artist myself I knew I could never push you when you arrived here in Philly at 18.

Artists can never be controlled.

As much as a parent I wanted to encourage your talent I knew I was powerless, so I did nothing. The talent either thrives or perishes.

There is no middle ground when it comes to art.

 

Lorelei, you healed and flourished here in Philly.

I started to see your art return to you slowly. (That’s how it always occurs)

 

Long story short, you have now connected with a guitarist and you are going to start playing paid gigs at a bar here in Philly. You are very much in control of the set list and the guitarist is on board, so this is really happening.

I couldn’t be happier.

 

I’m a big fan of: “If you’ve got the gift, use it”

 

But it’s happening and I’m so excited! The former musician’s daughter that is far more talented than him is now going forth with her art.

You guys even have a venue and will be getting paid, which puts them light years ahead of anything I was doing back in 1979!

I’m so proud of my daughter and will invite everyone I to her first show…. I know it will be amazing.

 

Umm…. I’m going to write these last words just so they’re on the internet forever for her from me….

 

Happy Valentine’s Day, my love!

 

My beautiful bird….

 

Go forth and sing.

I have wished for this day for so long, and now it’s here.

This moment in your life is so important.

Now you strike.

Daughter, it is your time to fly high, but not to close to the sun.

Protect your wings.

Life is fleeting and fragile.

Enjoy yourself.

 

Your Dad will always be here for you as long as I can stand.

 

As i get older I’ve learned that life is always moving fast.

 

In a short amount of time…

 

This will all seem like a long time ago.

 

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