A few months ago, I took my daughter in for a routine check-up, and I had one of those moments where my little world shifted—not because anything had gone particularly wrong or well during the appointment, not because of some major event, but because of something entirely unexpected. 

My girl is sweet and funny and smart. She smiles easily, she’s vibrant, and she’s also incredibly strong-willed. She works hard to keep up with her older brother, and she has this confidencea fearlessnessthat has already earned her a broken tooth, a forehead full of bruises, and at times, a highly stressed mother. She challenges her dad and me in ways we often feel unprepared for, and some days, it’s like we’re first-time parents all over again. 

At this appointment, her pediatrician had caught us on an especially hard day. My daughter was teething, recovering from a cold, and I had stupidly scheduled her check-up during nap time. It was like wrestling a crocodile to get her to sit still for the nurse, and by the time her doctor came in, my back was drenched in sweat. 

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He went through the typical milestone questions, I semi-joked about her bullying me, we laughed, she smiled her dimpled grin, and when he went to listen to her heartbeat, she karate kicked his stethoscope out of his hands. It flew across the room, and the clatter it made on the ground sent a new stream of sweat down my back. 

I immediately apologized, but surprisingly, he wasn’t even remotely upset. Instead, he laughed and said, “You know, she’s going to be a really great teenager.” 

Those were not the words I had expected him to say. In fact, if asked, I probably would have bet (and lost) my life savings that this moment would have primed the stage for a “just you wait” warning or a “you have no idea what you’re in for” look.

“I’m sorry. What?” I asked, trying to make sense of what he had said while I wrangled her wild body.

“I get it. These traits can be hard when kids are little, but personalities like hers make for great teenagers. She’s only 15 months, and she’s already so sure of herself. When she’s older, she won’t let other kids tell her who she is.” 

It was like someone had filled my lungs with fresh air. I relaxed my shoulders, which had found a near-permanent place by my ears, and looked at my daughter with clearer eyes. He was right. She did know who she was already, and wasn’t that exactly what I wanted for her? 

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It’s true she’s wild, but that wildness makes her unafraid to take chances.

It’s true she’s loud, but I would never want her voice to feel small.

It’s true she’s strong-willed, but that’s taught her to love hard and say no to things that don’t serve her. 

It’s true she kicked a stethoscope out of her doctor’s hands, but that just means she’ll be brave enough to stick up for herself when she actually needs to. 

We’re still far off from her teenage years, and I don’t know what those years or the years in between will really look like. I can only pray karate kicking her doctor remains a one-time thing. But I’ve come to realize the traits that make some days hard are also the traits I love most. They’re the things that make her, her. And even though I might need a reminder every now and again, she knows exactly who she is. 

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Lindsay Pagni

Lindsay resides in Reno, Nevada, with her husband and two kids. Her deep love for the written word inspired her to co-found Polished it, LLC, an editing and writing company. Most days, you can find her sipping iced coffee, talking baseball with her husband, and finding new ways to make her kids laugh.

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