From the beginning of my parenting journey, I’ve looked at the faces of my children with a bit of wonder and awe.
I behold them as gifts bestowed upon me.
I’ve studied their expressions, their reactions and their moods from the time they were just babes in my arms.
I consider it my job to lovingly guide them to pursue who they’re wired to be in life — and to encourage them to be the best version of that person.
My daughter’s always been decisive, organized and stubborn. She knows exactly what she wants.
I’ve found it’s pretty hard to get in her way once she’s decided something. More often than not, her something is a goal she’s conceived on her own, along with a course of action to make it happen.
When we first moved to Minnesota three years ago, her only request during our home search was that she had a tree to put a swing on. We found a gorgeous property with many lovely trees, but, unfortunately, none that were really right for a swing.
A few weeks after we moved in, she gathered a bunch of random fallen branches and cut up an old pair of jeans. She spent hours getting the branches to align just so and then covered them with her old jeans to create a comfy seat (with help from my glue gun).
She looped the contraption up into a small tree with some rope she found in the garage.
Done and done!
Another example: Every July, she has annual soccer tryouts that allow the coaches to restructure their various teams by ability.
When I asked her if she wanted me to sign her up for a weeklong tryout camp to get her ready, she decisively said no.
Later, when I was prepping dinner in the evenings leading up to tryouts, I’d notice her out in the backyard doing high knees and all kinds of calisthenics I’d never seen.
She also created her own footwork drills with carefully placed kindling and cones. Then she asked me to take her on the trail to go for a run.
This was her way.
Sign here, please
Given this history, it probably should’ve come as no surprise when she showed up with a contract she drafted at the beginning of the last school year.
The contract stated that if she earned straight As for all four quarters, she would be rewarded with a French Bulldog puppy.
I never really agreed to it. It interfered with my plan to finally travel (in five years) with my husband on some of his international business trips. A puppy would certainly mess with that timeline.
Regardless, she worked diligently every day, checking her grades, retaking tests if she got a B, asking to go to school early for extra study sessions.
Come summer, she had done it. I was so proud of her!
But frustrated, too. Did she know how much these dogs, cost? What about what I wanted? And who would really be taking care of the puppy?
I was honest with her about my hesitation.
I told her no.
Never give up
But then, a few months went by, and I saw it — her iPad screen saver — a French Bulldog puppy.
I did some searching. I found a breeder that was just an hour away and offering puppies for almost half the price of what I’d seen all year.
I went for it.
And when I picked her up “for an ortho appointment” — which allowed her to get out of school early to meet her puppy — she actually wept with joy, a big, beautiful-ugly cry.
I saw in her tears that it wasn’t just that she had a puppy to happily hug and hold. It was that her inner longing (the one she was born with) was satisfied.
Slowly, I’m beginning to understand she finds a rich joy — and profound fulfillment — by setting her sights on a goal and achieving it all on her own.
And it actually makes me proud of her stubbornness. She had enough resolve to picture something ahead of time (when no one else saw it) and pushed hard to meet its end.
And, of course, our family’s new little snarling Frenchie is starting to grow on me, too.
Jennifer Wizbowski lives in Excelsior with her husband, and daughter and son, ages 13 and 16. Send comments, questions and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.