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Dear second (and last) baby,

People told your dad and me that your big sister was our “sucker baby”: she was so easygoing, she suckered us into having another one.

And it is true that she’s a pleaser. When it came time to discipline her, all it ever took to correct her behavior was for her to know we were in any way the slightest bit unhappy with her in the first place. 

You, though, were a different story . . . your own story. Your attitude toward us was more along the lines of, “What have you got? Bring it on, ’cause I’ve got more.” You almost inspired an “It’s a good thing I’m the second child or I’d be an only child” t-shirt.

I’m never quite sure what version of you I’ll see at any given point throughout the day. You might be euphoric or annoyed or exuberant or withdrawn, all in one 24-hour period. Of course, I know some of that is also known as “being a teenage girl”. But you were your fascinating, mercurial self long before those darned adolescent hormones kicked in. 

Yet oh—oh!—how I love you, my darling girl. You make life interesting, but so much more than that, you make it better, because you gift us with these unique pieces of yourself.

You keep surprising us. Remember that sweet older lady at church who gave all the members of our family alliterative nicknames based on the first letters of our first names? I was “elegant” (I kept hoping for “encouraging” but never quite made it), your dad is “charming” and your sister is “lovely”. When you were born, this precious woman dubbed you “adorable”. But when you were about two, I cornered her at church one Sunday morning and told her I had a new descriptive word: “annihilator” because you had wiped out life as we knew it.

Of course, now we can’t even think about life without you, partly because your unpredictability keeps it from being boring. When you were an eighth-grader, you needed to decide if you wanted to do marching band in high school. Again and again, you adamantly insisted you DID NOT, based on your firsthand experience watching  your big sister go through the rigors of band camp and the marching season. “I am NOT doing marching band!” you told us without wavering. I agreed with your reasoning and happily prepared to spend my Friday nights somewhere other than a football stadium. Then your eighth-grade band class was invited to sample marching band at that last home football game, and you halfheartedly grabbed a pair of cymbals and joined the drum line and played along on the school fight song. Two hours later, when I picked you up, you announced, “I’m going to do marching band all four years!” All. Four. Years. And I learned the only thing we can expect with you is the unexpected . . . usually, in the best possible way.

You are a leader. The same character qualities that make you someone who keeps your dad and me on our toes (and, sometimes, on edge)—stubborn determination, a strong will, and single-mindedness—also make you someone who wants to get things done and who takes organized, deliberate action to do them. I was so proud when you were peer-elected to student leadership teams in middle school, and I loved that as soon as the opportunity to apply for high school student council came up, you jumped on it. 

When you want something, you go after it with intensity and intention. That’s why instead of just saying you want to be a better dancer, you’re up at 5:30 every morning, doing stretching exercises. Thanks for stretching us, too. We needed it.

You think deep thoughts. You’ve been speaking in full sentences since you were about two, and more times than I can count, what has come out of your mouth has been something that has stopped me in my tracks. Your mind is always working, and to me it feels like it’s usually processing something significant. I’m so honored that you often want to talk over things that are on your mind with me, but I know I have to be ready for an intense conversation. You convict me and challenge me and make me think hard. You’re the child I overheard telling your imaginary “class” one day when you were playing school, “Stop trying to be perfect. Start trying to be better.” You’re also the kid who, as a middle schooler, wrote a “greater than” list that included such entries as “love > hate” and “strength > letting them get to you.” These thoughts come out of your personality, which is why you can be challenging to figure out. But these kinds of thoughts are also what make you a puzzle worth putting together.

You are passionate. Prickliness and passion often look a lot alike. You feel strongly about almost everything, which is a beautiful thing when that strength comes out in your dancing or your relationships or your writing. You can also be passionately compassionate, always wanting to give something to the people standing on the corner by the drug store. You’re the reason I carry a gallon storage bag stuffed with granola bars and socks and McDonald’s gift cards in the van within reach of the driver’s seat at all times. Passion usually comes with some kind of price, and if with you, that price is a touchy temperament, it’s one I’ll gladly pay. 

I always know how I stand with you. You feel what you feel and do not try to hide or change it. Of course, as you’ve matured, you’ve learned that in many situations, people and politeness and patience take precedence over your freedom of feelings. But there is also reassurance in knowing your unfiltered opinions. Early in that marching band season, I was thinking about how the halftime show closer had just been added and was wondering to myself if it was going to be any good. Then I remembered that you’d talked about it and said it was “awesome” and I thought, “Well, it must be good if she says so.” You don’t spin situations. You tell it like you see it, and what you see is usually right.

For the record, my sweet second-born, I am equally crazy about both you and your big sister. I can’t imagine life without either one of you. Individually and together, you make my world a better place.

So if I sometimes feel as though I have to dance a little around you—the child my own mom and your grandma adoringly dubbed “unusually unique”—it is a dance I gladly and gratefully do, because knowing you and loving you and being loved by you is worth every tricky step.

Love,
Mom

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Dear Strong Willed Child, You’re Worth It

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knowing you and loving you and being loved by you is worth every tricky step.  #motherhood #mom #raisinggirls

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Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two daughters (one teen and one young adult) who regularly dispense love, affection, and brutally honest fashion advice. She writes about faith, food, and family (with some occasional funny thrown in) at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by spending time on Facebook and Twitter.

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