A letter to Hadley, on her first day of school

Dear Hadley,

Today, Momma and Daddy watched you take a big next step in your life as you started your first day of school. It seems like it was just yesterday that we welcomed you into this world, that you were calling milk “gulk” and clean-up "pup keep." Now, you are wearing a real backpack and not a toy one made for your Barbie and babies. You will be a grown woman before I can blink, so Daddy wants to take a second to tell you a few things that I hope you will take to heart when you look back at this letter one day down the road.

-Be proud of who you are. Don’t change who you are based on what someone says or thinks. You have a HUGE heart. Open it up and let others see your love and passion.

-Find your own way in life. You have the whole world in front of you. Look around. Listen. Watch. Find a path that leads you to happiness and avoid those that hold you back.

-More often than not, life will be difficult. And sometimes, it will be really, really hard. But you are strong. So embrace challenges and find ways to succeed in those moments.

-Remember where you came from. Change is expected and life will no doubt take you many places. But make time to remember your roots. As Dorothy said, “there’s no place like home.”

Hadley, I’m so proud of you, proud of who you are, and what you have accomplished already at the young age of 4. You have blessed me. I can’t express in words how happy I am to be your Daddy. Through your life, I have found so much meaning. I think about you when we’re not together. I worry about you when you’re playing on the swing set outside. I get upset when I know you’re upset. Daddy, Momma, Leighton, and Baby Carter would not be complete without you in our lives. I love you for ALL you are, quirks and all, and I will always be here for you. You will make mistakes, but this is one Daddy that will always open his arms to you, incline an ear for you, and love you through those mistakes.

Congratulations on completing your first day of "big girl school!" I love you.