Dearest Katie, My Beloved Daughter:

In those wee hours of the morning the day after you were born, I held your baby face close and sang you our special song. It was 2 AM, you had just been released to me from the NICU with your lungs finally clear, I had only the vaguest idea about this mom gig, and I was deeply in love with you. In our first private moments, we talked. I apologized to you in advance for all the mistakes I knew I would make with you, and I cried because I knew right then that no matter how much I ever told you I loved you, you would not truly understand how lasting and deep that love is until you held your own child someday, years and years and years and years away.

I knew being your mother would be pleasurable work. I knew all the ideals and values that Daddy and I discussed teaching you at length before we made you. I knew what I hoped you’d find out about this life, about your life. I knew that I could only be a guide, a cheerleader from the sidelines. I have so many times overstepped my bounds as a guide, but six years in I am finally starting to get that role a little more right.

Like any mother, I worry about you. When you take small things hard. When your mind starts latching on to what is going wrong versus all that is right in life. When you show self-doubt. When it seems you hesitate to believe in yourself. I worry because, when I am gone, I want to know that you can land on your feet, find your way, and be filled with happiness and self-fulfillment. I worry because I do not want you to need me. I want you to know what it means to need only yourself: that no matter what random things life lobs at you, you are strong enough inside to handle it without being crushed, even if you are on your own. I want you to claim full independence. As much as you sometimes argue with me about the small things, I know that form of scrappiness is all bluster; the kind of real fight—real independence—I hope you have inside of you, I have been hoping you will discover.

No one can teach that lion’s roar. You have to delve inside and claim it for yourself. All I could ever do is keep setting you up to find it.

Today you found it. Now grasp onto that roar and never let it go. You are unstoppable. You cannot be crushed. Whatever burdens you will bear, you will be stronger than they are, and you will survive them…if you can stay in touch with that fire inside.

You have been training and training for the 2K you have coming up next weekend. You have met all of your training sessions with a good work ethic and eagerness. I saw your doubts, but we broke the distance into pieces. We have spent quite a bit of time running that track.

Up until now, you have always wanted to break up your five laps into smaller amounts with rests in between. You doubted that you could run all five consecutively without stopping. One day you flat out said, “I can’t” before you even started running. We had a discussion about “I can’t” (and I tried to remember to be a patient guide, even though that phrase drives me crazy and  you know it!). But you powered through that training session, and we celebrated that you got through it.

This afternoon when we were discussing training goals, we talked about your 2K being about one week away. We talked about how a good goal would be to run as many laps as possible without stopping. To tell your body that you are the boss. To prove to yourself that you can do it. To see how far you can go…

My friend Steve just completed the next level of Spartan, an 8+ miler in Vegas. When we talked about his performance, he said his refrain for himself was, “Keep moving forward.” No matter what: keep moving forward. Today I shared Steve’s story with you. We repeated his motto. We talked about how to adjust your pace without stopping and without walking. Slow down if you need to, I coached, but do not stop running. Keep moving forward. You can do it.

I can do it, you said. I can do at least three laps, you said. Great, I said. You’ve got this. I know you can do it. 

You took off from our starting line. I jogged a full lap with your brother, and then he was done. I sprinted to catch up with you, now on your second lap. You put your kick on at the end of that second lap and considered stopping. No, just slow your pace, I said. It is okay to slow your pace, let your body recover. Nice and smooth pacing. You’ve got this third one. We jogged together. Do not put your kick on this next lap. You can do  it. You said you wanted three.

As we were halfway around the third lap, we talked about how if you did one more you would have a full mile. You piped up and said, “And if I did TWO more, I would have my race distance.” I encouraged you. You said, “I can do it.” I told you that you are a fighter. You are doing this for YOU. I told you: “You are not running to prove anything to me. It’s not for Daddy. It’s not for Boppa. This is not for Amie. This is for YOU. You are proving yourself to yourself.”

And then, you had a mental shift. You went from saying, “I can do it” to the golden words of everyone with the heart of a champion fighter: “I will do it.”

You found your ability to will yourself into achievement. For your own sake. For no one’s estimation but your own. You found the power of proving yourself to yourself, of holding yourself to your own high standards, not for any other accolade or fear of punishment. And if you have found that, you have found everything. You have found the secret to having a conscience predicated on the good of all humanity. You have found the fount of self-worth. You have found the place that will allow you to love yourself, and will therefore allow you to love other people as true equals. You have found the ability to repel peer pressure and to be an independent thinker. If you have found your lion’s roar, you have found the source of joy that cannot be destroyed.

Then you went and slaughtered your last two laps. You ran all five, baby. You did not stop. Even when you thought about it. You were stronger. Your fire was stronger.

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This is a picture of you, in jubilation after showing yourself that you can rock your 2K distance. You cheered and celebrated! This is you, after meeting the ultimate training goal of running your race the way you hope to run it next Saturday. This is you, after you learned what it feels like to conquer what you said you would do.

You told me, “I promised myself I would do it.”

And I told you, “Then you have the heart of a runner. You make promises to yourself and you fulfill them. I am so proud you, and I hope you are proud of yourself, too.”

On the way home, you told me how much you like feeling the feeling of achievement. You said how much you love to set goals now. You told me how thrilling it was to realize you could do what you set your mind to do. You had surprised yourself.

But I knew it was in you.

You have discovered the power to hold yourself accountable for your life, for what you do with yourself and to and for others. That is everything.

I am so proud of you. More than that, I am happy for you. I am dancing for you. I celebrate your discovery. You are free and limitless in the glory that is you. Whatever you want to make of your life, you can do it. You found that today, too! When you got home, all you could talk about was how many excited plans you have for your life. You want to be a nurse, and an athlete, and eventually own a bakery. You want to play soccer for always. You love horses and animals. You want to write. You have talked about all of these goals before, but today you were brimming with a new verve in your voice. The difference? In your voice I heard self-knowledge for the first time that you really can be anything you set your mind to be.

You know it now. You ran yourself into the discovery. It doesn’t matter how many times I have told you that it is true: you had to find out for yourself.

I celebrate you, my Katie. Keep exploring that power inside. You will not have to live a life of fear. Whatever comes, you will be able to meet it, because you are independent and strong. You are more sparkly and fierce than you realize!

Love Always,

Your Mommy

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