For 73 days, my daughter clung to me as I dropped her off at school in the morning. Even months after the tears were gone, even when she came home happily talking about her friends and proudly showing me how to write her name, her arms still became a vice around leg when it was time to say goodbye.

For 73 days, she sat silent at lunch while her friends willingly volunteered to say grace. For 73 days, she dropped her eyes and shook her head when her teacher suggested that she give it a try. For 73 days, she refused to say a word to either one of her teachers.

I’m raising a shy, hesitant girl.

Don’t mistake her hesitancy for disobedience. She has an uncanny self-awareness of her strengths and weaknesses and she’s hesitant to try things she knows may be more difficult.

Don’t mistake her silence for rudeness. She’s quick to talk to peers, fast to make friends, and she’s curious about you even if she’s hesitant to talk to you.

Don’t mistake her quiet mouth or downward gaze as she’s not listening. She sees and hears everything, even when you don’t want her to.

Don’t mistake her clinginess as weakness. She’s fiercely independent, strong, bossy, and sassy. She wants to be able to do everything on her own, but she loves her mama and she will adjust in her own time. Even it if takes 73 days.

I’m raising a loud and blusterous risk-taker.

Just because you may not be able to understand every word she says does not mean she doesn’t know what she’s saying. She thinks for herself and as much as she can be hesitant, she can also be headstrong and stubborn.

Just because she’s quiet doesn’t mean she can’t be loud. At home she yells and sings and belly laughs without reserve.

Just because she may not be ready to say grace at lunch doesn’t mean she wouldn’t jump into a pool without a second thought. Girlfriend taught herself to swim like that, with determination pulsing through her blood as she kicked her little legs.

I’m raising a persistent and headstrong child.

There are days I often feel I’m failing to find the balance between teaching her that the world does not revolve around her and allowing her to make her own choices.

There are days I suddenly find myself in the middle of a power struggle with a 4-year-old; neither one of us willing to bend. The very traits that will make her a strong and independent woman can easily get in the way of getting ANYTHING done quickly in a world where there is never enough time in one day.

She’s complicated and complex.

When I look at her I see . . . me.

On the 74th day, I walked to the door of her classroom, waiting for the feel of her arms to wrap around my leg. It never came. I looked back to see her standing at her desk, a small smile creeping across her face as we made eye contact.

On the 74th day, her teacher told me that my daughter’s voice was strong and clear as she said grace at lunch. Her teacher’s eyes filled with tears as she described the same small smile that crept across her face as they made eye contact.

So I keep on reminding myself to show patience and grace, regardless of how many times I fail.

She keeps on looking at me with admiration, despite how many times I fail.

And I keep on praying that one day when she’s grown, she will still look at me that way.

You may also like: 

Dear Strong Willed Child, You’re Worth It

How My Shy Girl Found Confidence 

He’s Not Always Easy, But He’s Easy to Love

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Leah Porritt

A behavior specialist by profession, Leah finds passion in assisting parents with finding creative ways in which to support children with behavioral, cognitive, physical, and medical challenges. Leah enjoys the humor that comes with parenting and sharing it as a way to encourage mothers to support and encourage each other. Once a Division I athlete, Leah still enjoys running and participating in races with her oldest son . . . even though she is much slower these days.