Just when I thought that my daughter could not possibly amaze me more…
I write this post while covered in dirt and a light sprinkling of mud; my hands are so tired that it is making the act of typing difficult; I feel achy in my abdominal muscles and back; my nose is red from being a bit cold; my heart is
This morning, before breakfast, I went into my living room to fold a throw blanket
(–I swear the story gets better–)
and I saw evidence that my daughter had already spent time in the room in the earlier morning hours, on one of the Barcelona chairs by the fireplace. I saw the sunlight streaming in through the windows, creating a halo around the spot on the white seat where she had just been. I felt so warm inside, grateful that my daughter had taken it upon herself to enjoy parts of her new house; those parts that make the house magical for me, but that I do not always realize her appreciation for, as well.
As I cooked breakfast for my family I chatted with my kids, the warmth still in me like a weight in my chest but,
for once, a good weight. A grounding one.
My daughter sat and read Todd Parr’s The I’m Not Scared Book to her little brother.
Because we are keeping a reading log for her for school, I had her write this book down, meticulously spelling out the date, the author’s name and the title of the book.
She was asked to write two sentences describing the book, after denoting whether or not it was fiction or non-fiction and saying whether or not she liked it.
When she finished writing I looked down at her paper. While the spelling was not perfect, the her message used to describe the book was:
“Just because you are scared it doesn’t mean you are not strong. I am strong.”
And then I melted.
This afternoon, the entire family decided to head outside to enjoy the unseasonably beautiful day.
For me this was a big deal; amazing, some might even say.
We did some extra-high swinging. I played fetch with Lola and realized that, despite how we typically view her (read: princess trapped in a small, furry body), she is actually a real dog.
And then I got it into my head that it would be a good idea to go up the slide.
I prefaced my bold move by saying, “I know that this goes against what we always tell you and you cannot ever do this without us here or at school” and I took a running leap, tried to make it up the slide, and slid down.
It took me 3 more tries to make it up to the top.
The slide is extremely slippery and there is nowhere on which to grab.
Just trust. That thing is hard, man.
And so, after seeing my few tries and ultimate success, my daughter decided to attempt to do the same.
And so she tried a few times. Each time, she slid down, unable to get a grasp on the sides or any traction from her shoes. And this activity takes near superhuman strength, I exaggerate not.
I sat at the top of the slide and watched her as she tried, over and over again. And finally, after her 30th attempt, I offered to help her.
I reached my arms down, figuring that if she could just get to me, I could pull her up tot he top and it would be a shared victory. And so she walked away from the slide, turned back towards me, took a running leap up onto the slide, started to pull herself up, and I grabbed her arm…
and promptly slid down, face first, onto the ground and into the dirt.
I laughed so hard that my belly hurt.
“See?” I told her. “I promised you I would never let go of you.”
And then, I was in.
Over and over again we tried to get her up the slide and over and over again we missed. Sometimes she wouldn’t be able to grab my hands. Other times, I would reach too far for her and go sliding down, tumbling back into the ground. I must have fallen into the not-super-dry dirt at least a handful of times, at all different angles.
At one point, I even decided to reverse things and put my feet down for her to grab, planning to hook them under her elbows and pull her up with my leg strength.
And so, finally, I told her that I was proud of her but that we should call it quits for that particular activity and resume our efforts tomorrow.
“No,” she said, emphatically. And she literally rolled up her sleeves and the legs on her leggings and she kept going.
For 40 minutes my daughter tried to make her way up the slide.
I watched as her face got red.
Over and over I asked her to take a break. I offered to get her some water.
And over and over she told me that she was not going to stop until she did it; she did not want to quit until she got up that slide.
After more attempts than I can count, I finally fine-tuned a plan. I will admit, this took a lot of trial and error
(read: faceplanting into the dirt)
but I decided to get on my stomach, hooked my one leg around the side of the fort for support, had her shoot towards me with as much momentum as possible by coming at me from a running leap and, as soon as I touched her arm, before my own arm got tired, I pulled her little body as hard as I could.
Also, I had my husband holding onto my foot as an extra anchor so that I would not go sliding.
We all get by with a little help from our friends, sometimes, you know?
She got into my arms and then, as instructed, used my body as a ladder, pulling up on me and climbing on me until she made her way into the fort.
It wasn’t easy, especially our grand finale, but she did it.
And when we hugged and high-fived I felt so proud of her. Not because she accomplished a task, but because she refused to give up, even when things seemed bleak.
I had surreptitiously written a note to her at the top of the slide, using chalk that I had found tucked away in the court. It said that I loved her.
She saw it and beamed.
but tenacity is not something that I knew she had in her, at least not to the level that she displayed today.
She took a situation, saw the challenges, faced them, over and over, and yet, she still kept trying.
She got knocked down, literally, over and over again, but she got up each time.
Sometimes, she got up with tears streaming down her face, as she had banged her hand or, once, I had fallen on top of her.
But she got up.
And she would not give up.
Today, my daughter showed me so many new things about her and about what it means to be a strong human.
She showed me how to find the light. She showed me levels of eloquence and elegance that took my breath away.
She modeled to me something that I have struggled with, especially lately: she persevered.
She showed me what it means to be gentle and tough, simultaneously.
And, most of all, she showed me what it means to persist.
Girl, I have never been more proud of you. I am in awe of you.
Keep on finding that light. Keep on reaching, even when the thing you are reaching for feels just out of your grasp.
Keep on getting up, no matter how many times you get knocked down.
And, most of all, keep on being you.
Because you are an extraordinary thing to be.