A little over five years ago, my world changed. Allison Jo McGraw was born on July 2, 2009. While she wasn't born on the 4th of July, she did come home from the hospital on Independence Day which is quite fitting. Allie, from early on, has been fiercely independent in her own thoughts and opinions. She is strong willed, beautiful and loving. Even though it is very cliché, I could never have imagined the effect she would have on my life. Allie was the first little girl born on my side of the McGraw family in 60 years. You can imagine the disbelief from my parents when we found out that she would be a girl. I will always remember my quiet and reserved mother screaming over the phone "MIKE, PICK UP THE PHONE," to get my Dad to hear the news. From that time forward our lives exploded into a blur of pinks and purples. We picked the name Allison very quickly and knew we wanted to call her Allie. Her middle name, Jo, was
not selected so quickly. My wife wanted Allie's middle name to be Elizabeth and I preferred Jo. Jo is also Amanda's middle name. As we neared the due date Amanda told me I could go ahead and pick the middle name and whatever I chose would be fine. I now know, after telling the nurse to putAllison Jo on the birth certificate, that Amanda fully believed that I would pick Elizabeth after watching her go through labor.She was wrong. While Amanda has come around on the name Jo, I did not get the final choice for our second daughter, Lauren Elizabeth's name. Allie was a dream to bring home. Of course, that might be because my lovely wife allowed me to stay in bed as Allie woke up during the night. Allie didn't cry much at all and began to sleep through the night very early on. Through the learning curve of changing diapers, to slippery baths and weird spit up,my world grew into more than I could have ever imagined. Thatcurve continues to change. Today's biggest struggles are trying to pick out clothes and do Allie's hair when Mom isn't home. I have just come to the conclusion that I am just not cut out for such things, and Allie doesn't hesitate to tell me that her clothes don't match. Allie has also shown me that my plans don't always matter. I was the first to say that there would be no"princess stuff" in my house. Today, Disney princess figures, castles, carriages, and dress up clothes now fill our closets and I now know entirely too much about Merida, Elsa, Anna and Ariel.
As Allison has grown older, her independent nature has shown through. I doubt that I will ever have to worry about Allison being the victim of peer pressure. Despite her short stature, she is her own girl and is often the ring leader in any group. Allie doesn't just take yes or no for an answer; she wants to have a complete explanation of why she can't do something."Because I'm your father, that's why," is just a losing argument.It's often exhausting, but leads to lots of interesting and oftenthought provoking discussions. If Allie thinks someone, myselfincluded, is doing something wrong, she has no hesitation in trying to explain how to do it right. Interestingly, about the only person in the world she doesn't correct is my father-in-law, Rick. He can do no wrong. It's frustrating, but funny, when Allie sees me struggling to fix something around the house, she tells me that I should just call Pap, because he can fix everything. The last five years have been amazingly fulfilling andheartwarming, but also a little sad. Each birthday, each milestone makes me remember the little baby that had me wrapped around her finger from the first moment I saw her.Allie starts kindergarten on August 20. While she has already gone to pre-school, there is something different about kindergarten. The first real step in her life is starting. All my prayers and hopes for her are still ahead. I can only imagine what the next few years will bring; new friends, school trips,report cards, dances and, unfortunately, the first boyfriend.While I would love to be the tough Dad that scares the young men that come over, I know that I will not have to be. Allie isand will forever be her own woman and she will be more than capable of keeping them in line.
My father passed away in November of 2012. I try to think back to all the memories I had with him and the lessons that he taught me. I hope that my girls look back the same way in the future to the times we spend together. As Allison grows older, her goals and her dreams will develop and change, but I know that she will be able to meet anything that comes her way. Along the way there will be challenges and setbacks, but I know that Allie will remain undaunted. She is strong, independent, loves God and her family. Watching her continue to grow, I will be the one that suffers the growing pains. Graduations and weddings are in the future, and I am unfortunately already trying to save for both, but for the time being I wish I could just keep her little for a short time longer. Marianne Richmond wrote and illustrated a children's book we have at our house titled, "If I Could Keep You Little." The book ends with what I am sure arethe thoughts of all parents. "If I could keep you little, I'd keep you close to me. But then I'd miss you growing into who you're meant to be." I love you Allie, I would wish you good luck, but I know you don't need it.