Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Song that Katie Grace Taught Me

There’s this girl I know. Until I met her, I’d never known anyone so fearless and authentic, and so comfortable in their own skin. If I hadn’t lived with her, I wouldn’t believe a girl could be so sure of her own heart. But that’s just part of what Katie Grace has taught me.
The day she was born, my dream of having a daughter came true. I had hoped against hope that our third child would be a girl, afraid to speak my wish out loud. And then she was there—all seven pounds and three ounces of soft, pink perfection! I can remember just staring at her as she slept in my arms, growing more in love with her with each passing moment. I was anxious to see how raising a daughter would be different from my boys. I pictured frilly dresses, hair bows, and pink everything. But Katie had other ideas.
My girl embraced life with a sense of adventure and daring—she loved to move fast, climb high, and walk to the edge of every high place she found. She tried to do everything her brothers did, and it seemed that nothing scared or overwhelmed her. She walked when she was eight months old and was running by the time she was ten months old. She climbed the furniture and used toys to get on top of the pool table. When she was 18 months old, I found her perched on the top of the refrigerator, looking down at me and smiling and laughing at her great adventure.
And talk—oh my, that girl could talk! She was talking by the end of her first year, and never seemed to run out of words. When conversations lagged, she would break into song—mixing her words with whatever random melody would pop into her head, creating endless nonsensical songs that always made me smile. Even now, I can picture her sitting on the couch, playing with her toys and singing to them about everything she was doing—and I can see her smile up at me and ask how I liked her song.
It’s not always easy growing up with two big brothers. But Katie made the most of it, learning to appreciate dinosaurs as well as dolls; trucks as well as tea parties; superheroes as well as Snow White. She didn’t just keep up with them, she learned to embrace her femininity and make the most of it. She could be fearless in her attempts to join in their rough and tumble play one minute, and batting her eyes at her Daddy the next, as she asked for a special treat. The boys would get so frustrated with the way she could turn on the sweet charm with her Daddy and get out of trouble!
There was only one time that Katie was afraid…nighttime. While the boys shared a bedroom, she slept alone. She would prolong bedtime for as long as she could and often woke at night with bad dreams. At one point, I woke up to find her at my bedside almost every night, asking if she could crawl into bed with me and snuggle, because she had been awakened by a dream that upset her. During the day-time she moved through life with energy and laughter, but at night her anxious thoughts would come out in her dreams.
And then adolescence came along and my girl began to grow and explore life in new ways. Katie found her own style in clothes and music and books. It was wonderful watching her develop her singing voice and share her talent at school and at church. She joined the Acro Team (Exhibition group specializing in a combination of gymnastics and cheerleading skills) her Senior year at boarding school and turned her love for climbing and standing at the edge into a new extracurricular activity that she loved!  
Katie also became quieter and more introspective. At the dinner table, she stopped fighting to join her brothers’ conversations and sat there quietly listening and watching their interactions. I worried that she was going to fade into the background and lose her voice. I would “push pause” on the talk at the table and ask Katie what she thought about the conversation of the day and then nudge her brothers into a habit of listening to her answers.
My girl was noticing that there were times she agreed with her brothers and times she didn’t. She was learning that she didn’t need to adopt their opinions as her own, and that disagreeing didn’t mean they would grow apart from each other. That disagreement might manifest itself as a feisty retort or a quiet comment spoken in a tone that was all business. Sometimes she would be so passionate about her thoughts that tears would spring to her eyes—and she was never ashamed of her tears.
Katie Grace is 23 years old and such an amazing young woman! She works hard and loves deeply and is about to set off on a new chapter of life, as she prepares to move far away and go back to college to study nursing. She sees that the path ahead of her will be hard in spots, but she’s not backing down—she’s climbing higher, so that she can look over the edge and smile about how proud she is to have made it.
I watch my girl in awe, to be honest. Every day I wish I could be more like her. Every day she is teaching me.
To listen with my heart and know that it’s OK to disagree with those I love.
To look within, ask the hard questions, and know that who I am is more than good enough.
To push past obstacles, reach for my dreams, and climb higher than I thought possible to see what is just over the edge on my own path.
And I just know that Katie Grace and I will look at each other and grin when we see how high our climb has taken us.

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