(This is shared with permission from the graduate.)
My beautiful precious Katie girl,
It seems like only yesterday that I was dropping you off on your first day of kindergarten. One of the moms said, “Well, this is it. We had our chance.” I cried all the way home, because you were growing up too fast. Little did I know that was just the beginning. (And by the way…that mom was a fruitcake. I had LOTS more opportunities to mess up after that!)
On this milestone day, know that I am so proud of you. Every day, I am in awe that I get the privilege of being your mom.
Do you remember when you learned to ride a bike without training wheels? I thought you would NEVER learn. And you were so stubborn. You just didn’t want to do it. You couldn’t get past your fear of falling down, and nothing I said could convince you that knowing how to ride a bike was worth a few bumps and scrapes. I begged, cajoled, and probably even yelled. I told you that learning to ride a bike was a necessary life skill and EVERYONE needs to learn it. I told you that you would be left out of lots of fun things. And like so many other things when you were that age, you just weren’t going to hear it.
Then one day, we put the bike in the car and went to the school. The intention was to use the parking lot as a wide open space. But the parking lot was too fast, and you were afraid. For some reason, we went onto the baseball diamond to try it on grass. You couldn’t get going on the grass, but the dirt provided just enough resistance that you were able to get some speed but not feel out of control. In no time, you were riding around the bases while I stood in the middle yelling and jumping up and down that you were DOING IT!!! I don’t know which one of us was more excited. What I learned that day is that you really wanted to learn to ride but fear was holding you back. You needed a soft place to land. The grass and dirt of that baseball diamond were more forgiving than the pavement and that soft place gave you all the courage you needed.
The stubbornness that you displayed about riding a bike was not atypical for you. From the day you were born, you knew what you wanted and you weren’t afraid to let the whole world know if you weren’t getting it. On the night you were born, you were screaming so much that the nurses insisted on taking you to the nursery so I could rest a little. I could hear you yelling all the way down the hall (so of course I didn’t rest). When they brought you back, they said, “This one is gonna be a lawyer. She has a lot to say. ” That didn’t end at infancy. Oh the tantrums you would throw in your toddler and preschool years! I’ve never seen such persistence. When I was completely at my wits end in those particularly headstrong days, I remember thinking, “That girl has balls. Nobody is going to mess with her.” Even though I wanted to refine that stubborn streak in you, I never wanted you to lose it, because I knew it would be that determination that would make you lead instead of follow. It would give you the courage to speak up. It would give you the strength to stand up for yourself. And if you could get past your fear, it would give you the stick to it-ness that would catapult you into a successful future.
Today, as you take ride off on another kind of journey, with your refined determination, this is my advice to you. It seems so inadequate, but it comes from my heart.
Take chances. Be willing to risk bumps and bruises to go after the things that you really want. When fear is holding you back, and you need an extra dose of courage, know that I will always be there cheering you on, and I will always give you a soft place to land. Stand up. Speak out. Try. Fail. Try again. Always remember who you are and where you came from. Love. Live. Fly.
I love you more than I could ever express. I will be the one in the audience who starts crying when I hear the first note of Pomp and Circumstance. They will be tears of pride and joy. Congratulations baby girl. Today is the first day of the best of your life. (And don’t worry. I’ll stop crying eventually…but maybe not until tomorrow.)