Several events over the past few weeks, from Memorial Day weekend and through Father’s Day, caused me to reflect inward and think about the legacy I’m leaving behind to my family and the rest of the world.

On Saturday May 26, 2012, my oldest daughter (our first baby) graduated from high school. She’s off to college in the fall. She’s leaving the nest. This summer is probably the last time she’ll be “living at home” for the rest of her life. Sure, she’ll come home over the holidays and summer break, but most of that time is spent going out with friends and catching up on the happenings in their lives. From this point forward, my baby is going to be out in the real world on her own. Am I nostalgic thinking back about the time we spent together? Heck yes. Am I sad? Yes, but excited for the adventure she is about to embark on. Am I worried? No way!

Let me share with you a true story involving a little boy and a little girl that happened many years ago but still moves me to tears when I tell it.

There was a boy and girl who lived next door to each other since they were eighteen months old. Their birthdays were only weeks apart. They played together, trick or treated together, and began school at the same time. They were inseparable. They became BFF’s - Best Friends Forever… or so they thought.

Shortly before the little boy’s 6th birthday, he was diagnosed with a tennis ball sized tumor at the base of his brain. It required immediate surgery along with intense radiation and chemotherapy. Even with the aggressive treatment, the odds were against him surviving. If he did survive, he was never going to grow up “normally”. His growth was stunted and his hair would never fully grow back. His speech and physical coordination were also affected. But he was a fighter. He beat the odds and survived. After nearly three years of surgeries, treatments, and therapies that had him spending more time in hospitals than in his own home, he was going back to school in the neighborhood with the “normal” kids. He’d go to therapy in the mornings and to school in the afternoon where he’d ride home on the bus like all the other kids.

One day, on the bus coming home from school, some of the “popular” kids started to make fun of the little boy. He was much smaller than the other kids his age – both in height and in stature. He weighed about half of what the average kids his aged does. He was bald and spoke very slowly. He was an easy target and the other kids didn’t let up. That day he got off the bus in tears.

The next day the ride home started off worse than he could have imagined. While getting on the bus, he dropped his backpack and the contents fell out all over the place. Many kids laughed as he picked up his belongings and struggled to get on the bus. He eventually found a seat and the taunting started again. But this time, something was different. A nine year old girl stood up to the other “popular” kids and challenged them. She told them that her friend was much stronger now than they will EVER be and that if they continued to make fun of her friend then they would have to deal with her. From that day forward, nobody messed with the little boy.

I tell you this story because that little boy was my neighbor and that little girl was my daughter. She could have taken the easy way out and either done nothing, or worse yet, joined in the taunting. Instead, she was confident enough in her own identity and beliefs that she stood up for her friend.

I tell this story because not only because of what she did, but how I came to learn about it. I did not hear about this until a couple months after it happened. I heard about it from other parents in the neighborhood. When my wife and I talked with our daughter about it, she answered very matter-of-factly to what had happened. We asked her why she didn’t tell us about it. Her response was, “I just did what I know was right and the problem was solved. No big deal.” I don’t know about you, but I wish that most of the adults I know had that type of wisdom and attitude.

So, as I think about what could be the last Father’s Day I’ll spend with my oldest daughter before she is let loose on the rest of the world, it is with mixed feelings. The boy in the story suffered a relapse and was not able to survive his second bout with the horrible disease. He died two days before Christmas 2005. We all miss him. On the other hand, I am content that my daughter has all the tools she needs to be successful. She is a future leader of men and women in whatever she chooses to do and she will leave an indelible impression on the world. So, I’m not worried about her as she goes out on her own… but the world better get ready for her.

Author's Bio: 

Mark Papadas is a nationally recognized children’s empowerment expert and author of the highly acclaimed book “10 Secrets to Empower Kids and Awaken the Child in You” as well as President of The I AM 4 Kids Foundation – a recognized 501c3 charity committed to providing its personal empowering programs to public schools across the U.S. at NO COST to the SCHOOLS.