The Halfway Point

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I unscrewed the child safety cap from the white, plastic bottle and turned it upside down. A single Flintstones chewable vitamin — the last one in the bottle — dropped into the palm of my left hand. Since Jessie turned 2, my days have begun this way.

This morning, though, the empty pill bottle feels a bit more significant. It’s Jessie’s first day of fifth grade.

Except for the early wake-up call, Jessie says “Hooray!” She likes school and is eager to see her friends. After a wonderful summer with lots of cherished moments, Dad says “Hooray!” too. I have more quiet time to write while Jessie is in school. It’s important that a writer writes.

Last night Jessie said, “Dad, as a fifth-grader, I’m at the halfway point.” I quickly did the math in my head. Pre-K plus kindergarten plus grades one through 12 totals 14, divided by two equals seven. Pre-K done. Kindergarten complete. Grades one through four in the books. When Jessie completes fifth grade, she’ll indeed be at the halfway point.

I mentally walked to the bedroom, grabbed a pillow for over my mouth, and yelled, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” I didn’t do it, but the thought definitely crossed my mind.

How can Jessie be a fifth-grader? I just read, “Children 2 to 3 years of age – Chew one-half tablet daily with food” on the back of the Flintstones bottle. We went from a half tablet to a full tablet to empty bottle after empty bottle way too quickly.

Jessie chewed her vitamin, drank her orange juice, ate her yogurt and oatmeal, and then went to get dressed. While she prepared for her big day, I packed her lunch and wrote a little note to include in her lunch bag, wishing her a great first day of fifth grade. 

Prior to driving Jessie to school, she rolled her book bag out to the driveway. Of course, I had to take a photo. Moments like this are meant to be captured. 

Over the summer, I allowed Jessie to move from the rear seat to the front passenger seat when it’s just the two of us in the vehicle. She loves to sit up front, as it’s easy for her to change the radio station to songs I can barely understand, but that’s a different column.

I drove Jessie to school as a front-seat passenger for the first time, and it felt strange. I couldn’t help but think that I was just buckling my baby in her car seat. I recalled the days I carried my little girl into the house when she fell asleep in the car — or pretended to, which we called “playing possum.” 

This morning, however, I didn’t see my baby. I didn’t see the little girl with the squished-tight eyes and smile playing possum, though Jessie would have enjoyed an extra hour or two of sleep. No, today I saw a girl who could easily pass for a teenager. 

During the drive, I shared my standard lines, “Give it your all,” “Keep a positive attitude,” and “Tell the boys your dad has golf clubs” (to chase them away from my little girl). Reluctantly, I dropped her off in the carpool lane, rather than holding her hand and walking her to class as we had done in previous years. The wheels of her coral-colored book bag hit the sidewalk, and she headed off to fifth grade. 

I’m confident Jessie will have a great year in school. She’ll need some more vitamins, though. On my way to pick those up, I might need to stop at the donut shop for some “glazed comfort.”

Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and author of “MoMENts: A Dad Holds On,” available at Follow him at and on Twitter @patrickhempfing.

Categories: Dads, Family, Relationships