I remember when the state quarters began coming out back in 1999. Before then, quarters always had an eagle on their backside, with the exception of the bicentennial quarters that were minted in 1976. When I first saw the Delaware quarter, with the picture of a man riding on a horse, I became intrigued and wanted to learn more.
My wife was pregnant with our first child at the time, and I thought the coincidence between her birth and the start of a ten-year project that was different from anything I had seen with coins before was interesting. So I acquired a map of all 50 states, and spaces for each of the states’ quarters, and some facts about them all on the back. Ten years seemed like a long way away.
As the years went by, I found it was best to keep my eyes peeled for the next quarter coming out, and pay close attention, for a change–couldn’t help myself on that one–to the coins I got back from transactions in a grocery store, or wherever else monetary transactions took place.
By the end of this process, when the Hawaii quarter had been pushed into place in late 2008, my daughter had taken an active part in locating the new quarters. It was something that we shared together, but it had to come to an end sometime. We stayed with it, and in the end we saw it through to a successful completion.
I have no illusions that this thing will be a family heirloom or anything like that. It does have some sentimental value, yes, but it’s also money, and there may come a time when my daughter raids it to go to the mall with her friends. They’re her quarters, and she can do what she wants with them. But if she wants to leave them in place, that’s great, too.
My point here is that milestones in her life–the first day of kindergarten, the first bike ride without training wheels, the first time they go to a school football game, and anything else that marks a new phase in life–have inevitably come and gone. Other milestones are off in the future, but they will inevitably arise, too. And each one is another reminder, in case I ever needed one, that she won’t be a kid forever.
Like the state quarters in the map, what my once-baby daughter will eventually do with her life is up to her. For the time being, at least, I still get to provide an example and pay the bills as needed, both of which I’m happy to do. But some day even that won’t be needed (or wanted) anymore, and I’ll have to be ready for that, too.
Unlike the quarters map, which had a target completion date of 2008, the process of being a parent does not have a defined finish line. As long as my kids and I are on this earth, there isn’t a point where I can say “That’s it. I’m finished.” This is an open-ended, ongoing, indefinite process, that the end is not now, and never will be, in sight. And, if you want to know the truth, I kind of like that. I’ll just have to always do the best that I can, and hope for the best results. And what more is there than that?