Many years ago I found myself alone one day at my mom's desk in her office at the hospital. I sat down in her big blue chair to find something to eat in her stash of snacks. As I twirled myself around and around, yes, it is ok to do that even at 17, I stopped from the dizziness and peered at the pictures on her desk. In the frame that held my picture there was a small piece of paper stuck in the corner. I leaned in to read it. It said, "Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child." How long had it been there and I had not noticed it? Why did she feel the need to abide by this since I could walk? It wouldn't be until many years later, after having my own children that I would truly understand what this means and how excruciatingly hard it is to live by. Anyone who has had a child and raised them, even for a short time, knows the overwhelming feeling you have to protect that child and want to make their "path" of life fun, easy, memorable. I am no different. Except I was raised by Sallye Liner, believer of the saying on her desk.
In the dead cold of winter Man asked about signing Olivia and himself up for a mud run. I was ok with that, it sounded fun. I volunteered to be the photographer. I am a team player like that. Man and our neighbor competed early that morning as a team (and WON!), so I was a little nervous after seeing some of the obstacles she would be faced with. I was a lot more nervous about the ones I could not see. I even thought she might run right up to the mud and refuse to go through it. You see, in this race, the parent could not participate. They could run along beside the youth but not help. Oh my. My mothering instincts were beginning to get the best of me, but this was a daddy thing and I was staying out of it. I am sure he was impressed. Because I hope for this blog to be written memories for our children I am going to present this as a letter to Olivia.
Several weeks ago you participated in your first Mud Run. I was so excited for you to have this opportunity! You were too! Sometimes I get so nervous for you I can hardly sleep, eat, or breathe. This was one of those times. I wanted you to feel accomplished at the end of this experience, but after I saw what lay before you I let my knowledge of your weaknesses want to protect you like a mother bear.
I watched with much anticipation as you waited for the gun to ring out on that sunny day. You took off and ran as fast as your little legs could carry you into the woods. When you came out and met the first mud bath you didn't hesitate for one moment....like I thought you might. No! You met it head on.
I smiled as big as I could and scurried along behind you and Daddy. I knew what was next and that it would be my last opportunity to photograph you for quite some time. You ran straight up to the rope climbing wall and grabbed a hold. I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding on to.
You see, when you were little you had no fear. You climbed on e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g! There was no stopping you. Then you learned you could fall...this took you awhile. And much to my dismay you have flat out become terrified of heights. Just when I thought that this was it, the day you were going to conquer this fear, it hit you. You realized half way up that you had to climb over and down. You were struck down in that moment.
I was standing off to the side and Daddy looked at me. I thought it was the I am getting her down right now this is breaking my heart look, so I stepped in. I had made the path of fear of heights easy for you for too long and it was ending in that moment. I planted my flip-flopped feet into that ground, slung my camera around to my back and yelled, "You can do this!" I yelled it and yelled it and yelled it with as much passion and compassion as I could bring forth. Tears began collecting in your eyes with a look of fear and defeat on your face, but I didn't stop. I was preparing you this time. Not the path. You must know in your inner most being that you CAN do anything you set your mind to and that I believe in you! I chose that day for us to both learn this very hard lesson. After a few more tears you climbed, slowly but surely, you climbed one step at a time.
And when you came down on the other side you turned to me with the biggest smile and said with amazement, "I did it! I really did it!" And I said, "Yes you did." And just like that you turned to continue the race, I pulled my camera back around to capture this moment.
And the tears fell. I have waited for this moment in your life. The one where you know that there will always be one man in your life who will love you and protect you with everything he has. In that moment, that embrace, you knew. I knew. And please don't ever forget that feeling.
Once you disappeared into the wooded obstacle area I had to stay back and wait. I became very anxious about how you were doing and handling the challenges. After an eternity I saw your pink headband round the corner. When I saw your eyes meet the obstacle before you I saw a changed girl. You looked me straight in the eyes and screamed, "Mama. I CAN DO THIS!"
And you did.
And when you made it to the finish line you had done it. You had transformed yourself, your mind and your attitude in that hour.
We love you so much Olivia. We will ALWAYS be there cheering you on. You will never be too young or too old for us to be by your side. We can't wait to see all that you accomplish in your life.
I can't promise that every obstacle will be easy to overcome, or even accomplished in an hour. But I can promise you that I am done preparing the path, I am preparing you.
Olivia, you are a shining light. Shine bright!
I love you!