As I sit here a few hours removed from your High School Graduation ceremony, I find myself in a reflective mood. I remember the day I met you like it was yesterday, May 14, 1996 just after 5am you burst into my world forever changing it. At the time, I could have never imagined the journey that you would take me on over the next 17 years. As with most parents I was just relieved that you were a beautiful healthy little girl. I was young, nervous and uncertain about my ability to be a dad, but I did know that I loved you more than anything I had ever loved before in my life. I remember watching you grow and eagerly awaiting you to reach the next milestone in your development. When would you be able to roll over, sit up or walk? What would be your first word, when would you say “Daddy’”? I was always so excited when the next thing happened and quickly anticipated the next step you would reach. I was always so proud of you and would brag about you all the time to anyone who would listen. It didn’t take long for you to show me that you were going to give me a whole lot more to be proud of.
You were a very precocious little girl, extremely articulate and charming beyond your years. I remember fondly that first performance when you were two years old – an impromptu rendition of “O Canada” at Grampa Slinger’s retirement. The crowd cheered and clapped for you and I believe a spark was lit inside of you. Your next big thing was singing the anthem as a 3 year old at a sold out GM Place for a Grizzlies vs Raptors game (see it here). You proudly walked around the stadium the rest of the night soaking in all of the attention from those in attendance. I think this experience started a belief in you that when you perform, it makes people happy. That night an entertainer was born.
Your life wasn’t all about singing and performing milestones as you had many others – your first day at Kindergarten, your first soccer practice, your first swim meet, your first ballet class or how about your first day as a big sister. Like all kids you were growing and developing and learning through each new experience. But it had also become obvious to me that you were born with some exceptional talents that most kids don’t have, or they develop at much older ages. What made you extraordinary was that you weren’t just exceptional at one thing but so many things. You were wise beyond your years or as Grandma Shan said on your very first day – “Michaela is an old soul”. Your elementary school years were remarkable in so many ways – you were asked to skip grade 4, you performed with kids much older than you and earned the lead roles, you were an aggressive and effective soccer player and an exquisite dancer. There wasn’t much you couldn’t excel at, however there is one moment that sticks out above the rest and blew me away. As a 10 year old you performed at a packed Stanley Theatre at the invitation of Destino who had seen you perform a few weeks earlier. They wanted you to sing “The Prayer” with them at their CD release party in front of all their fans. – you stole the show with that one song with what I think is one of your most remarkable performances that you have done (watch the performance and judge for yourself). I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of you on stage over the years, you have an ability to light up the room when you are on stage whether it be the living room at Gramma and Grampa Slinger’s or in front of 1500 people at the Centre for Performing Arts in Vancouver.
I have also had the good fortune over the years to be able to coach you in swimming and soccer. It is in this role where I was able to see you develop as a leader and a competitor. Most people that know you first associate you with your musical and performing talents and have no idea about this other side of you. On the field you were always attentive and willing to learn and try to get better. In the pool I was able to push you to limits beyond what you thought you could do. I always loved the conversations on the way home from a practice when I would ask if it was hard. You were always honest and would say things like “yeah it was tough, but it really wasn’t that bad.” More or less asking for more to see if you could go even harder the next time. I think this work ethic has allowed you to excel at your sports as well. You have been a leader on every soccer team you played on, most recently as captain of the Storm you have helped our team achieve a great deal of success both on the field and off. It is hard to believe that we have been able to keep this group of girls together since you were all U13 and had the successes that we have had at the level we have competed. A good deal of that success comes from the fact that you and the others were able to maintain friendships and avoid the usual problems associated with competitive girls soccer teams. I attribute a great deal of that to your leadership style as a captain and it brings to mind a favourite quote from the movie Remember the Titans, “Attitude reflects leadership”.
When you moved to Middle School I had the good fortune of working as a Numeracy Support Teacher in your school and your classroom for both grade 6 and 7. This was such an amazing opportunity for me as a parent; I can’t imagine many other parents get to work with their own child in a classroom over the course of a couple of years. Many kids might find it awkward and be reluctant to have their own parent teach in their school and/or classroom. You seemed to love it and welcomed me into your school world. You let me tease you and tell stories about us in front of your classmates, you were ok with me going into the other classrooms and meeting all of your friends and maybe even embarrassing myself or you in front of them. I was able to see how you interacted with your peers and teachers, and how they interacted with you. You demonstrated the same drive and determination in the classroom as you did in the pool and on the soccer field, you were driven to be successful, a model student truthfully. Since those days I have continued to get such positive feedback from all of the teachers who have had the chance to work with you, not just about your academics or work habits, but more about you, the person, and the wonderful qualities you bring to class and school on a daily basis.
Now that you have graduated from high school you are about to embark on a new chapter of your life. You are heading off to Quest University in Squamish which I believe is the only post-secondary school that you could attend that would be able to challenge you the way you want and deserve. Quest is as unique and dynamic a place as you are a person – I believe it is a perfect fit. I know you will take the school by storm and push your learning like you never have before. I knew you had found the place you were supposed to go when we went on the tour of the Quest last year and you turned to Leanne and I and said, “Dad, I think this place was made for me”. I am so excited for you to have this experience, and playing on the varsity soccer team will only enrich the experience and provide you with an instant network of friends. It will also give me an excuse to make the drive and watch your games so I can see you and have a visit.
Michaela, I am so fortunate to have you in my life. I have no idea what I did to earn the privilege to be your dad but I am so thankful it happened. Your name means “Gift from God” and I am pretty sure that you have lived up to that definition, I know you have surpassed it in my eyes. You have a way about you that truly touches people’s hearts whether it is your beautiful singing voice, how you interact with people both young and old or just seeing your smile. People’s lives are made better simply by knowing you and being around you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have taught me, the experiences we have shared and the love we have for each other. I will miss you terribly when you move away to Quest, it used to be months away, but now I am counting down the days. My little girl has grown up.
I love you Michaela!!