This past Saturday was National Daughter’s Day, so my social media feed was filled with photos of friends sharing posts of their daughters and declaring their love for them. Scrolling through these photos, it made me reflect on the work I do – and specifically the “why” behind it.
I was blessed with only one daughter, and from the second she was born (or actually even not-yet-born), she was determined to do things on her terms. We had been warned that second children tend to come faster, and since my oldest son’s labor and delivery took all of 6 hours, we were prepared. Twelve hours later, she made her “on her terms” entrance into the world, bright-eyed and filled with wonder. My favorite picture is from the day we brought her home – an actual photograph snapped by my husband (that took us a few months to develop – gotta love the tech of early 2000s coupled with the lives of new college graduates who are also parents to an infant and toddler). In this photo is a tiny little human who was about to turn our world on its head – and one who was poised to embark on a life-long quest to change the world.
Each day, she explores the world with so much courage and compassion, to a level I don’t often see in adults and sometimes not even in myself. Raising her and watching her grow sparks so many conversations with myself that start “wow, when I was her age I could never…”
Her courage and compassion sparked something in me, and that spark started a journey that changed the focus of my work. I started my career working with families dealing with child protective services. I loved the work that I did, it was hard, it was rewarding, it was sometimes scary – and dealing with systems that weren’t always focused on the mission of protecting families often left me frustrated. I showed up for these families and especially these kiddos until I was called in a different direction – I discerned a different way that I was called to support children and families.
Hearing the stories that some of my kiddos were dealing with coupled with coming home and watching this tiny human turn into a strong, compassionate leader sparked something in me that ultimately led me to create what has become my third love (after movie theater popcorn – thank you, Harkins party bag). Her zeal is what helped shaped the curriculum of the G.E.M.S. Group.
In the early years of the group, she and her friends directly helped shape it by being my guinea pigs and trying activities out with me. Sharing stories of their experiences and allowing me, as the “pick-up Mom,” to have an invite into their worlds – even if they didn’t know those laughs and giggles from the back seat and the stories of how someone was being treated by another friend helped guide the way I was approaching things with my own clients and group members.
One day, that tiny little baby girl who I had brought home from the hospital all those years ago wasn’t so tiny. For maybe the first time, I had a full realization that she will be a full-grown adult living her own life one day, and after that, I’ll likely reach a point where I can no longer lead girls groups on my own, as the generational divide will be too great.
So as I reflect on National Daughter’s Day, writing this with a flashlight at 3 in the morning because apparently, that’s the “genius hour” (or at least my brain thinks so), I hope that each of our daughters are filled with so much loving compassion that they spread compassion and kindness to all they know. That they have more courage than they will ever need, and because of that they have the ability to help others feel courageous when they are lost. I hope they know the path ahead of them is wide, and that they have the tools to navigate it when they are their best authentic selves along the way. I hope they know that their best is ALWAYS good enough.
These are the lessons we cover in G.E.M.S., but they are really the lessons my own daughter has taught ME, and continues to teach me, as she brings me along on her journey of becoming her authentic self in a world that she was made to change.