Today is my oldest daughter, Cassidy’s birthday. As a father, I look at this milestone with joy and excitement. Watching her grow up over the past decade +2 has been so rewarding to see. When she was three she started gymnastics. It was the cutest darn thing to see her in her little gymnastic attire showing me all the new things she learned in class. As she got older she decided to try other things such as tumbling and dancing. Attending her winter or spring recitals was one of the highlights of those years. Then she got into basketball. In everything that Cassidy does, she walks away with beautiful memories and experiences. That’s what life is all about and I thank God everyday that despite being divorced from Cassidy’s mom, both of our families still facilitate an environment of love, support and encouragement for our princess and her siblings.

What I love so much about Cassidy is her compassionate spirit and the depth of her love. She often thinks of others and is far from selfish. When she was young I always went out of my way to show her that when you see people in need, and you have the means to help, that is a test from God to keep us on the right path. Cassidy grew up with money in the home. Both parents and step-parents live in middle-class neighborhoods and drive newer vehicles. She will have money saved up for college and be given ample opportunity to explore her interests in sports, dance, music and whatever else appeals to her. She is surrounded by those who love her. I do wonder sometimes if she isn’t facing enough adversity in her life – something to expose her to the harsh realities that life tends to offer at the most inconvenient of times. My own adversities were poverty, abuse, foster care, and never meeting my father. Though I would never wish any of that on any of my children, I do know that having gone through everything I had to endure, I came out with a real sense of how tough life can get. My fear is that if we shelter our children too much, when they go out into the real world on their own, which could even mean going on the internet these days, I want them to know there is a darkness that exist out there and how to prepare for it when they do come across it. How that ties in with her compassionate nature, I just want her to understand when she sees a homeless man on the side of the road asking for help, she doesn’t necessarily need to buy him food like she saw me do when she was younger. Instead, she can donate to a non-profit that specializes on those needs. She can vote for local leaders and politicians who are fighting for the same causes she believes in. It might sound crazy but we have these types of conversations. I just want her to know how much power she truly possesses in a world that tries to make us feel powerless. When compassionate people become educated and know their true worth, many become the Protectors of our communities, be it police, firemen/women, EMT, doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, pastors etc. Cassidy has had some incredible teachers in her past who have sold that dream to her and I support it every step of the way.

She made me cry yesterday. I sent her a video wishing her a good day and noting that it was the last day that she’d be eleven years old. We are going to Montana soon to see her and I told her how excited I was to finally hug her again. She loved it and replied that she had a Father’s Day gift already prepared for me and that it’s something I’m going to love and be able to keep “FOREVER” (her all caps, not mine). I read that and instantly felt the tears streaming down my cheek. I was at work and had to run around the corner so people didn’t see me getting soft on them. 🙂 Her love is so deep that she already had a gift lined up for me a month in advance. Man. It hits me every time.

Raising Cassisy has been an absolute blessing upon my life. In all honesty, there were times I thought I was too damaged by my own loveless, empty and broken upbringing to be an effective parent. However, with the will and desire to want to be the best father I could be, lots of prayer and even more counseling, I was able to overcome all of that while contributing to raising one of the most amazing people I am blessed to love and by loved by.

To my dearest Cassidy – This is your day. You are a princess and you have a purpose. Dad, mom and Izzy love you soooo much. Thank you for enriching our lives in ways that could never have been possible without you. You are a strong, intelligent, compassionate and capable young woman. You have the power and ability to do anything you set your mind to but no matter how hard life gets, I will be with you every step of the way. Enjoy this day, sweetie. I love you. – Dad