I had a troubled childhood. My daughter’s childhood was saner, calmer, more loving and supported and infinitely more successful than my own. Still, not perfect, and not without its dark shadows. From the moment I held that small angel in my arms, I was forever changed.
Lessons I’ve learned from my daughter:
- That blind faith can manifest miracles. Doctors told me for four years that I couldn’t get pregnant and my OB/GYN was the ultimate skeptic when I climbed on the exam table. Doctors don’t know everything. My daughter just turned 25.
- That love at first sight is possible. Actually, I fell in love before I saw her, and couldn’t grasp how I’d lived without her once I laid eyes on her.
- Perseverance. When she was a toddler and just learning to walk, she would take a step or two, fall, and then—without a whimper—pick herself up, take another couple of steps and fall again. Over and over until she mastered walking. Never a flicker of frustration, nor a question of giving up because it was too hard. I stood in the middle of the kitchen watching her and had an epiphany about my own struggles and willingness to give up and changed my ways then and there.
- That heaven exists. When she was five, we were walking to school one day and she told me about all the babies in heaven choosing their moms. She said she saw me and knew that she wanted me, but was at the end of the line. She said that she wasn’t going to come down if someone else had picked me first. She also told me about the old Indian guide and Cousin Judy (whom we do not have) who had been in my stomach with her. I figured that explained my heartburn and discomfort.
- Priorities. Again, when she was five, as we lay in bed one night, she asked, “Mommy, who do you love best?” I smiled in the dark, amused by this coy manipulation. “You, of course,” I answered. “On, no, Mommy,” she said earnestly. “You must love yourself first.” She took my breath away and tears fell down my cheek. She was the first person in my entire life who told me to put myself first. I still have difficulty in making myself a priority.
- How to invest. Not in the stock market (although she did so well in her 6th grade “pretend” stock investment group, that she was awarded a luncheon with the teacher), but that time, attention, love and understanding will pay dividends in how a child grows and the kind of person they become. I was often lauded for “sacrificing” for my child. I always answered, “I sacrificed nothing, but invested everything.” She is a remarkable young woman. Now I watch her invest in her future and she continues to bloom in all ways.
- Aspiration. When she was in third grade her dad took her to a science convention in Boston. I told him to take her to Harvard so she had a concrete vision of what her academic achievements could manifest in her life. She did the rest. She graduated 6th in her high school class as an International Baccalaureate diplomate and was both a merit scholar and an Idaho Top Scholar. She didn’t apply to Harvard, but she received substantial academic scholarships to Georgetown and Pacific Lutheran, and was offered a full-ride to Seton Hall. She graduated cum laude in four years with a double major. And, in real life, she just continues to reach for the stars and lassos the moon.
- Integrity. We moved 1200 miles from home when she was 13. She was a stranger in a strange land. She finally had a bevy of new friends, but came home one day regaling me of the cruelty of the girls toward a young man who was developmentally challenged. The girls were taunting him by telling him that someone had a “crush” on him. They rebuked her entreaties to stop. It was a cruel lie and Kate debated whether or not to approach a respected teacher with the situation. We talked about the fact that her budding friendships would likely be jeopardized. It had been a long time since she’d truly felt she “belonged.” There was a lot at stake, and I told her I understood whatever decision she made—but that it was her decision. The next afternoon she phoned to tell me she was going to miss the bus because she had chosen to talk to her teacher. My heart broke because I knew the repercussions, and swelled because I was so proud of my little girl and her desire to do the right thing. She was ostracized—and held her head high.
- Determination. Her college years were not easy. She faced financial woes (and I couldn’t help and her father could, but would not help), a head injury, family issues, and the incumbent growing pains of moving from adolescence to adulthood. She juggled too many credits and four jobs and earned EVERYTHING she achieved. People try to give me credit. I tell them I laid the foundation, but when she walked out of our home a week after turning 18, and made a prestigious mark in her collegiate career, it was all her. She owns ALL of it. I just stand in teary-eyed awe.
- Courage. She faces everything with deft aplomb and steely courage (even when her knees are knocking). I have seen it from the time she was a little girl to, most recently, facing a personal struggle that would have the average person hiding under the blankets. But not my daughter. You are stronger than you know.
I’ve learned how to love myself better, but I still love you the most.
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