Today--and every day--I am very grateful for my daughter. She is most likely a miracle in a myriad of ways. She will soon be turning 10 years old, and yet her character reflects many more years of experience than her actual existence in this reality on this planet.
I know it is a parent's job to enrich the lives of your children and teach them all that you know in order to prepare them for the real world. I am smart enough to know that I do not have all the knowledge she will need for every contingency, but I do try to give her what I can. However, in the 10 years I have had the privilege to know her, my daughter has taught me many life lessons that I have either forgotten or never had the opportunity to think about.
She has certainly helped me on my way to learning true patience. Nothing is more frustrating for me than trying to teach someone something that I find second nature. It is too easy to forget how long it took me to learn a skill set or come to understand a concept. I know it now, I use the knowledge on a regular basis. I don't remember, or don't want to remember, how hard it was to gain that knowledge. And yet, when I look at my daughter and see that she doesn't instantly "get it" when I try to explain something to her or show her how to do something, I realize that we all have a learning curve. Very rarely is that learning curve steep (instantaneous grasping of the concept or skill). Learning tends to be more gradual with a few leaps and bounds thrown in for fun. Any time I see her struggle, any time I see the pain and frustration on her face when I start to get frustrated by what I initially interpret as lack of progress, I am reminded to step back and put myself back in her shoes. I am reminded that I love her too much to hurt her that much. Yes, I do want her to gain the knowledge and experience, but I don't want her to suffer too much on her journey to enlightenment. This patience sometimes even leaks into other aspects of my life. While I am not the kindest or most benevolent teacher, any time I remember my daughter's lessons in patience I tend to be more understanding of my students--to a certain extent; I still want my students to take the majority of responsibility for their own education in my college courses.
She has also encouraged me to think before I act (or react, as the case often becomes). We very seldom stop to think about the consequences of our actions. We very seldom think about the impact of our words or method of communication on other people. As a species we seem to be rather self-centered. It's not easy to see the world through some one else's eyes. I believe this is the first important lesson that God was trying to drill into my thick skull, but I never fully understood it until I noticed how my daughter reacted when I raised my voice, used "the look" or smiled at the "right" moment. She has brought me closer to self-actualization by opening my eyes to the ways in which my actions, thoughts, behaviors, words, etc. affect her (and consequently others). Don't get me wrong, I have generally been sensitive to the ways others' perceptions of me are shaped by my behaviors. However, it was always in a selfish light--how they see me, what they think of me, whether their interactions toward me would be positive or negative. My daughter has taught me that the other side of the coin is not only how others react to me, but how those reactions actually affect them and their psychology. I spent so much time looking down upon the hypocritical selfish people, never realizing that I had slipped into the same trap. My daughter brought me back from that black hole, back to the path of personal growth.
My daughter reminded me how to enjoy life, in big ways and small ways. She showed me that there are simple pleasures in cute fuzzy things and innocence. She showed me what it is like to feel true unselfish pride in someone else's accomplishments, how to really feel happy for someone else's happiness. She reminds me that at the end of the day it's how much we love the person that is more important than why we love them. She reminds me that even though there are things that need to get done, there are seldom things the MUST be done right that second. There are times to stop and hug or laugh or tickle or stare. There are times to hold back the anger and there are ways to turn seemingly bad days into rays of sunshine. My daughter has taught me that sometimes putting work aside for family will not cost me many more hours to catch-up later (although, interestingly enough, I DO end up with extra hours of catch-up work when I goof off for selfish reasons; go figure). She has reminded me how to look at old ideas in new ways and she has inspired me with her creativity. She has also shown me better ways to give feedback, criticisms (I use this term in the technical manner, not with the negative connotations), comments, etc. in a way that will enrich the individual and give them an opportunity to grow without tearing down their self-esteem. She has also helped me understand that teaching someone is not the same as expecting them to do things the exact way you think is correct. I have learned through her personality that it is possible to learn something from someone and find a way to adapt it to make it your own. She has also taught me how to let go--grudges, expectations, anger, hurt, negativity, and many more things that can pull me down.
My daughter is only 9 (almost 10) at the time of this post, and yet I have discovered that she has been her own separate entity since the day she was born. She has a powerful (not overwhelming take-over-the-world powerful, but strong and confident) personality, a strong character, and a heart bigger than most people can handle. She is my guiding light, my inspiration, my anchor, my miracle when I need it most. I may not tell her every day, but I thank God for every moment He allows me to have her in my life and I thank Him for the chance to learn what real unselfish LOVE really is. Perhaps God doesn't give children to those who need to learn patience, but He does send them to people when they need to be reminded of His love and the endless possibilities that it can bring. I used to bemoan the fact that I may never have another child, that my daughter will grow up lonely as an only child. Then I realized that if I never do give her a sibling then she will be an even bigger miracle, an even greater gift, for having her in my life.