Any other parents out there with a strong willed child? Or maybe you've been blessed with more than one? My husband, Bernie, and I thought both of our older girls were strong-willed, at least in their own ways. Our eldest, Kate, was extremely particular about food. She knew what she liked and didn't like, and she wouldn't budge on flavors she was not fond of. Our middle daughter, Claire, was generally more compliant, but still strong-willed. She just chose her battles more carefully. When she really wanted something, she'd dig in her heels and fight. But we didn't know what strong-willed really meant until our third daughter, Brenna, came along.
Her arrival should have been our first clue. The doctor had said that, as with my other two deliveries, things were pretty slow moving. It was about 7:30 pm and the doctor said I still had quite a ways to go - the baby would probably be born around 3 am. So I told Bernie to go get a sandwich from the cafeteria before it closed.
Even with the epidural I'd been given I felt significant movement and called for the nurses to check on the baby. The monitor strapped around my belly was not registering Brenna's heartbeat. The nurse tried, unsuccessfully, for several minutes to find the heartbeat and then called for another nurse. When that nurse couldn't get the heartbeat either, they tried a new monitor in a different location. Finally, the nurse looked up at me with a concerned look on her face and said, "Don't push. Don't push! She's ready to be born -- I need to call the doctor!"
"While you're at it could you page my husband and tell him to forget his sandwich and get back here?" Bernie ran in right before Brenna was born, and we knew the moment she entered this world: our girl was a force to be reckoned with.
Brenna was an intense child with over-the-top emotional reactions. We often couldn't help but laugh out loud at her extreme outbursts, which only upset her further. She was relentless in advocating for herself. She was an extroverted, super-social child who insisted on doing everything "all by herself." When she was in kindergarten, she used to walk around our cul-de-sac and talk to whichever neighbors were out in their front yards. One neighbor loves to tell the story of how Brenna came over one day, sat in her kitchen and had a snack, and spoke for 45 minutes in a British accent, never breaking character. (We like to do this sort of thing in our house.)
Like most kids, Brenna was born without a filter. But she was also born without that measure of timidity most kids have around grown-ups. Which is why she felt the freedom to tell one of our other neighbors, "Oh, you're the people with the ugly couch in the window!" They thought it was hilarious, stopping to tell me the story one day as they were driving past our house. And then they added, "It's so funny how kids repeat things their parents say." Ugh.
I never said our neighbor's couch was ugly. And I grew weary of running into other parents at the grocery store who wanted to tell me about the shocking and hilarious things my daughter had said to them. I couldn't possibly predict or foresee all of the wacky things that would come out of her mouth. As she got older, she argued and pushed and negotiated and I would tell myself, "I just need to be a little bit stronger than she is."
But as she grew I saw her defiance slowly turn into determination. She was motivated. She was proactive. She made lists for herself and wanted to be independent. She wanted to wake herself up with an alarm clock, pack her own lunches, and ride her bike anywhere I'd let her. She'd write me letters - really more like essays - explaining her reasons for wanting something, and often times I'd say yes because she is very persuasive, and well, can I just be honest and say I like her style? I like that she's tenacious and doesn't give up easily. .
So when she recently told us she wanted to be an umpire for girl's softball, I wasn't surprised. She filled out the on-line job application and went to the training. She printed out the rule book and studied as if for a final exam. She made Bernie and I go out to the front yard and pretend to be 2nd grade girls running bases and striking out.
On the morning of her first game she was nervous. I told her it was normal - after all, this was her first real job. But she had studied and prepared, and she was gonna do great. Bernie and I sat in the bleachers along with the parents of the 2nd grade girls, and it seemed like yesterday to me that Brenna was throwing the softball for the first time. I love watching our girl play. But it is entirely different to watch her ump. It's a different kind of pressure. I heard one of the moms say, "Oh - we've got an umpire this year! We're moving up!" Another mom quipped, "Yep...some junior high girl, I think." I watched Brenna strap on her gear and take her place behind the catcher. Then I heard my daughter yell, "Batter up!"
I watched as she called balls and strikes, as she confidently yelled "safe!" and "out!" I thought my heart would burst with pride when she pointed to the runner who ran to second after an overthrow at first and commanded, "Go back to first!" Because in second grade you don't get bases on overthrows. She knows that 'cause she's the Ump. She was authoritative. She stepped into her new role and owned it.
On our way home she admitted she'd made some bad calls.
"Yes, but you made a lot of good ones, too. And you learned a ton - next time you'll do even better."
My strong-willed daughter: strong enough to say yes to something new and kind of scary, strong enough to admit she got some things right and a few things wrong, and strong enough to want to try again, knowing she'll do even better next time.
Oh, and I made sure those parents knew the new umpire was my daughter. That strong-willed characteristic - it's for sure genetic.