I stumbled upon this photograph as we prepare for the celebration in honor of your graduation and upcoming surgery residency. I see your fat cheeks and stubborn expression and think some things really don't change. But the 15-year-old girl holding you...I barely recognize. So young....too young, I would say today and mean it; but never afraid and never ashamed.
Because I was more concerned with the mighty task at hand.......I had a baby! Oh, boy! (Oh, girl...really!)
So while trying to figure out the redirection of my own life (and making plenty of mistakes I know now), these are the promises I made to you and hope that I have kept them:
1. I will always tell you the truth. As you get older this will prove more difficult but always necessary. It will put me in a position of being your least favorite person at times and that will make me sad and sometimes angry. But I will do it. Because the world will tell you the truth in one way or another and I think it is best for you to know that someone will always be honest with you no matter what the cost.
2. I will make your education my priority. What do I do with a bright and precocious child when I had not seen a really good model in my own young life? The best I could. No baby talk for starters. If it's you and me against the world then we are going to have to talk to each other. Next...become involved. You cannot master a system you don't know about. Lastly, demand your best.....even when your smallest effort was celebrated by so many. Asking you for more or something different wasn't because I didn't think you were good enough...rather, I knew what you were capable of even when you could not see it yourself.
3. I will grow with you. I did my best to be a model for you. Your light will shine brighter and further than mine for sure but I will always try to learn and grow so that you will know this is not an expectation of you alone. Learning and growing is not something you will ever stop doing, and as a Mother, a woman, a friend.....you share those lessons.
4. I will be your Mother, not your friend. One as smart and beautiful as you will enjoy many friendships and as mother and daughter we will enjoy many friendly moments...but there will always be a responsibility for me that extends beyond friendship. The same fire in my belly that kept us both moving forward when I was way too young will be with me until my very last breath. No matter how accomplished you become or grown you proclaim to be...and no matter what the number is that is associated with your age...I will be your mother and you can count on me; even when this doesn't interest you at all!
5. I will love you madly! I will be your biggest cheerleader and feel your smallest pain. I will try to keep these promises to you even if you may not understand it at the time. This love will cause me to be unreasonable and smothering and will, I hope, someday be a thing you know for sure. Wherever you go, and whatever you do, this love is wrapped around you like a shield of protection...telling the world to bring it…that nothing is impossible because you are my daughter...before you were anything else.
And now your path is leading you past anything even the universe could imagine. Doctor, doctor. MD, PhD, a surgeon, saving lives... you may not know it...but mine was the first life you saved.
I love you. Congratulations.
Nicole Harding is an expert in leadership development and a wife and mother focused on spreading positivity; one conversation, one home project, and one dynamite deal at a time.
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