It's All Thanks to My Daughter That I Learned to Be Brave

Dear Daughter,

Thank you for making me brave. I never envisioned myself with a daughter, honestly. Growing up with three brothers, I just figured I'd be surrounded by men my whole life. But once I became pregnant the second time around, I just knew as soon as I looked at that positive pregnancy stick that in nine months, I'd be cradling my daughter. And since that moment, my bravery started to bloom.

Being pregnant with you wasn't the easiest. I threw up — a lot. And because I'm so short, my ribs killed me daily. And your five-day-late, 50-hour labor . . . well, that was no joke either. But by then, your strength was a part of me. Because of you, I got through it all. And you were certainly worth the wait.

Right away, you were as a stubborn as a grumpy old lady. Everything, I mean everything, had to be on your own time and in your own way. How you were fed, when you slept — you were picky about it all. But looking back, your tenacity was something to be admired. As you sprouted into a toddler, your voice grew, too. You had an opinion about everything — what you wore, what you ate, what you played with, and more. You were bold and relentless. You'd walk up to anyone and talk to them and ask anyone to play with you. Age, size, or appearance made no difference at all.

And while your spirited nature was a little challenging to parent at times (and still is), you began to rub off on me. Being a stay-at-home mom, I got antsy with no outlet. I knew I needed to set some personal goals but didn't want to try something and fail. However, the stakes were suddenly higher. I had a daughter now, a daughter who I wanted to see me trying to achieve new heights even if I failed. So, first, I started to train for a half-marathon — something I never dreamt I'd be able to do. But even as a little toddler, you encouraged me. Every time I'd return from a long run, you'd ask, "How many miles, Mommy?" You couldn't wait to hear that number going up and up with each jog. Finally, I did it. I finished my first half-marathon. But still, I wasn't satisfied.

As a 36-year-old mother at the time, I daydreamed about going back to school to earn another graduate degree. "Nah, I'm too old," I thought. But then I'd see you, a tiny little pig-tailed toddler, climb up the highest of play structures and even ask to play with the big girls. You had no fear. So, I did it. I enrolled in graduate school — again — and got over the fact that I was a little older. Because of you, I had the confidence to not only finish my graduate program but also ace almost every class.

Now that you're in kindergarten, you woo me even more. Sure, you do well in school and play well with others, but you also go out of your way to help a friend who's sad or stick up for one who's not being treated well on the playground. You've always been this way. Acting bravely to you is as effortless as breathing for everyone else.

Today, if I'm ever stuck in a dilemma, I think about what you'd do. Sometimes, I have to stick up for myself, voice my opinion in an awkward circumstance, or simply expose my true emotions. It's all hard. But thanks to you, my daughter, I've learned to trust my instincts and be courageous.

I cannot wait to see what life has in store for you because I know that with courage like yours, it'll only be grand.

I love you,