Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Little Courage

Dear Princess:

Today was our first visit to a new dentist. When the hygienist came to get you, I asked her if I should come, too. (Your brother was still in the waiting room.) She said I could, but laughed: "Looks like she's ok on her own." And I just watched your back as you marched away. You had no idea where you were going, but you were determined to get there yourself. 
When the appointment was over, the hygienist said your teeth looked perfect, and she gushed about what a good patient you were. But I wasn't surprised; you're all business at the doctor.

Over the years, I've seen you get two shots at a time and barely flinch. I've watched as your eyes turned steel gray, and you set your jaw and refused to cry. I don't know where you got that strength from, but I do know you were born with it.
And somehow you've managed to be steel, but not to be hard. You've sniffled over St. Jude's ads, and you've wept over that terrible SPCA commercial (the one I try to ignore). Last year, I held you when you cried, realizing your own kitten was dying. And I tried to answer your questions, but the truth is, baby -- having an answer doesn't heal our pain. 

But then, having pain doesn't mean we won't ever find joy again, does it? (Hello, Lent.) 

Here you are, five years old and already learning that. We talk about things that don't last forever and things that do, and you get it in the matter-of-fact way you get multiplication. You believe it's true because I say it is. And because this phase won't last forever, I need to say this now:

I know you're brave. You're brave and strong in ways that I certainly am not. I fight with worry, and I fear I don't know how to raise a brave girl. I fear you'll pick up my worry and weakness instead. 

So you make me want to be brave, just in case. 

The truth is, I'm more stubborn than brave most days. But you're both. The day you were born, you released a cry I thought was impossible for newborns. (I guess you weren't ready to leave your warm home yet.) For months after that, you scowled at the world -- all those presumptuous strangers who want baby girls to grin at them. 
And I worried you'd always greet the world with a glare. But in time you smiled at someone at church, and you proved my worry wrong again.

Today, you smile and show those little white teeth, and you're curious and precocious and very independent. In some ways, you're who you've always been. But then you're growing into who you are, too, like an oak bursting from an acorn. 
When you asked to be baptized a few months ago, I worried for a moment that you were too little. But you were determined, and you climbed onto the platform and spoke your part clearly, and my fear evaporated. You gave me strength somehow, and I realized maybe I can raise a brave daughter, after all. 

I can do it because you'll show me how. 

Thankful for you, 

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