As she came running up to the new playground, she stopped and stared in awe.
There in front of her was a 14-foot high rope structure, akin to a large spider's web.
After taking it all in for a moment, she immediately took off towards the ropes, began to figure out how to muscle her way up onto the structure, and then quickly and adeptly monkeyed her way up to the very top.
On the ground, an old grandfather watched in surprise.
The 8 and 9 year-olds asked her how she had gotten all the way to the top!
For this little girl was only 3 years old, you see. And this little girl, I am proud to say, is our own Bernadette.
In spite of her age, Bernadette is fearless. She absolutely oozes confidence in every aspect of her life - physically, socially, academically, you name it. There is not a person who walks by whom she will not wave to and strike up a conversation, seemingly unaware of any age difference: "Hi, how are you doing today? I'm Bernadette, what's your name? I really like the lights you have by your driveway! They look like the Christmas lights on the Christmas tree in my room!"
On the playground, she's constantly testing her physical limits, seeing how high she can climb, how long she can hang, how high she can jump from without getting hurt (I step in and give some guidance in this area), how fast she can run. Things I get used to seeing her do all the time, I realize are actually fairly extraordinary for a child her age, when I hear her peers (and even older children!) telling their mothers they are too afraid to try it.
At home, she is totally capable of making her own peanut butter and jelly sandwich, start to finish, packing it in a glass storage container, and putting it in her backpack; making smoothies all on her own, except that I plug the blender in for her; bringing us breakfast in bed, all of her own accord; getting out and mixing together ingredients to make cookies, with very very little guidance from me; getting out food and plates and feeding her baby sister breakfast, before we even ever get out of bed; mopping the floor; cleaning her room; cleaning her bathroom sink; unloading the dishwasher and putting away the silverware; setting the table...the list goes on.
This girl will not shy away from any challenge or adventure, which is absolutely remarkable to me. However, the thing that is even more remarkable to me than her actual bravery, is the fact that I am the one raising such a confident child.
To say that I was not the same as she is when I was young would be the understatement of the century. I was well nigh the exact opposite of her.
I was painfully shy and sensitive, always afraid people wouldn't like me, too scared to try new things for fear of failing, and worried about absolutely everything. I remember one occasion as young as third grade, my class was going on a super fun field trip to one of those re-enactment places, where we'd get to dress up in period garb, feed chickens, sew handkerchiefs, churn butter, and all that cool stuff. However, when the morning came that we were to leave, I was literally in tears and frozen in terror, because I was 100% sure that if I left to go on this field trip, my entire family would die while I was gone.
So I stayed home. And I never got another chance to go to this place that I know I would have enjoyed immensely.
I was told for years that I had a God-given musical gift and I should take piano instead of just playing by ear, but I put it off forever because I was afraid I wouldn't actually be good at it, and the teacher would get mad at me and smack my hands with a ruler (those stories had to be true, right?!).
In the same vein, I always assumed I was un-athletic, assumed I had a horrible singing voice, assumed I was dreadful at acting, assumed I couldn't dance, that I was far too timid and incapable to ever travel out of the country...
In a word, I was frozen by fear.
I can't even tell you how much I missed out on because I was too scared to try, too scared to fail, too insecure to think I could possibly excel at something other than academics.
Thank God for His mercy, because He put me through some major growth when I went away to college. I realized that He was a loving friend, not a demanding dictator. Once I learned that He wants me to be happy, to achieve, to dream, to excel, to be free, I can't tell you the difference it made in my life. I truly feel I never really lived until I went away to college.
I tried sports, and found I'm actually naturally athletic (including having some pretty sweet linebacker skills). That showed me a new passion and something I enjoy immensely to this day. I took a ballroom dancing class, and found I LOVE to dance, and it comes quite naturally. I took voice lessons, and found out I have perfect pitch. I then went on to eventually get one of the lead roles as the part of Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, proving I could indeed act, dance, and sing - all at the same time! I studied abroad in Austria, proving I was competent enough to travel around Europe, get by with little to no knowledge of the native languages where I was traveling, AND make it back home alive. Oh, and I happened to have the most amazing semester of my life. And...I went hang-gliding in the Swiss Alps. What!!
Being confident and fearless doesn't come naturally to me. I have had to work very hard at it, and God has been good enough to allow me to succeed in the things I have gotten up the gumption to try.
But even though I have made leaps and bounds in the areas of confidence and conquering fear, it is still something I struggle with daily, and it causes me very real pain. I still assume people don't like me, which makes it very hard to make friends, and makes me hesitant to even look at someone and say hello, because I think they won't want to talk to me. I still get the nagging feeling I am actually incompetent, despite all of my hard work, good grades, research, and clientele feedback, which makes things very difficult for me professionally.
I have let the Devil turn me into a scaredy-cat one too many times, and I know how painful it is. And how difficult it is for me to break out of that nasty cycle.
Which is why I am so, so, sososososoSO amazed, grateful, stunned, and yes, proud, that my daughter is the exact opposite of me in this regard.
I know that personality certainly plays a big role, as she is an extreme extrovert and I am not, but I know that my mothering has helped to foster that tendency and make it bloom.
I know that there is enough in life that Bernadette will be scared of on her own, so I have done my darndest not to add to that. Instead of telling her she "can't" do something because she is too little, I have always said "Go ahead and try, and I will be here if you need me."
Instead of "Don't run down that hill, you can barely walk and you'll fall down!" I said "You have fun running down that hill! And get right back up if you fall!"
And, pertaining to one of my biggest pet peeves....I do not say "Slides are for sliding DOWN, not climbing UP," I praise her for her strength, perseverance, and for thinking outside of the box.
I have tried my utmost to nurture her natural confidence, and to let her discover how wonderful she is. How strong she is. How smart, capable, and thoughtful she is.
And that confidence, and the beauty that comes from it, truly shines on everyone she meets, and makes our small corner of the world a better place.
I know that Bernadette will do truly great things in her life (once we can figure out how to harness that dang stubbornness and independence ;-) ). But I know that there will be things that happen to her, situations she faces, that scare her. And that is ok. And God and I will be there for her.
But I'll be darned if I'm going to add a single second of worry or fear to her life because of my own fears. God has made her a beautiful, talented girl, and I am both proud and humbled by the fact that a mother with so much deep-seated fear and insecurity could raise such a beautifully confident, fearless daughter.
Thank you, God. Truly...thank You.