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Vogt's Notes: A last first day for my last daughter

On Wednesday, my last daughter embarked on her last first day of school.

At the same time, my first daughter is finding her way for the first time in the "real world."

And not for the first time, I wonder where the years went.

When people hear I have a daughter who is a high school senior and another who just received her cosmetology license after 10 months of schooling, they inevitably say, "Oh, you'll be empty nesters."

I don't think so.

My 2015 high school graduate plans to attend Central Lakes College next year ... and most likely will live at home. My cosmetologist moved out for nearly a year, living with her grandparents in St. Cloud for those 10 months of schooling. Now she's back home, with a lot more stuff than she had when she left.

After dwindling in size for a year, our family is now back at full strength once again. I have a feeling these next few years will be a bit unpredictable, so I better be ready for anything.

Before we know it, we will be empty-nesters. And again, I'll wonder where the years went.

I can still picture each of my daughters so clearly as kindergartners, so excited for their first day at Nisswa Elementary School in Judy Lykins' class. To this day, they both say they wish they could have stayed at Nisswa School through 12th-grade graduation.

But they each had a last day at Nisswa at the end of their fourth-grade years. Then it was on to their first days at Forestview Middle School in Baxter as fifth-graders, where all the Brainerd elementary school students converged and new friendships formed.

I won't lie, parents of fifth-graders, it's a scary year. Will my child choose the "right" friends? I wondered that for the next eight years. I knew all the kids, parents and teachers at our close-knit elementary school. Suddenly, my kids were part of a much larger class where I felt like I knew next to no one.

As one of those "helicopter parents," those middle school and high school years were stressful for me. Last year, I finally let go and stopped hovering so much. Guess what? My kids did fine. They did better than fine. Apparently, my husband and I have done something right along the way.

Now as they both go through this next transitional year, where they'll both encounter many more firsts and lasts, I know they'll succeed.

And I know I haven't shed my last tear as they continue on their paths, wherever those paths may lead.