We’re just entering the Year of 3 with Miss C. She has always carried with her a different spirit, one with a bit more spark – sometimes more of a downright roaring blaze. She’s fearless. Just after turning 2 she was the first of our children jumping in the pool, going down a slide into the lake and wanting to go tubing. I think she a little bit believes she’s invincible. Which is beautiful and a lot of fun when you’re not parenting it.

On her third birthday we went to the zoo with every other person in the state of Ohio because of the Summer Polar Vortex. Each time we arrived at an exhibit, someone asked, “Who has C?” She wasn’t purposefully trying to evade us, she was simply following her nose, heart or curiosity toward something we had missed. Like the fence she started climbing. My C girl

My cousin once told me that the Year of 3 was “maddening yet magical.” I have a feeling we’re going to experience a greater distance between those poles this year.

The other day, JJ asked for the 586th time, “Where is C?” only to find she was in the garden, picking onions. She had saw me making dinner and assumed I would be in need. With my lackluster gardening skills, onions are the only vegetable we manage to keep all season long (which comes in quite handy because on a daily basis my family consumes no less than one onion and one clove of garlic, which is why we have so few friends). However, this particular day I was not in need.

We gave her stern words for picking onions when we didn’t ask her to. We preserve these precious bulbs and, as par for the course nowadays, shook our heads at the ways in which this little girl seems to do whatever she wants. How do we stop her from running off and doing things like this? we wonder. How do we get her to understand the rules apply to her? 

This morning I was praying for her, for her spirit, and those damn onions came to mind. She was giving us an offering of her love. She wanted to be helpful when she saw the cutting board. We missed it in an effort to preserve our garden. How much more do we miss as the prize of this spirited girl because we want something easier to parent. We know she’s not defiant, simply obstinate.

This girl doesn’t easily bend to requests when they go against  her ideals. (What are her ideals? We’re not sure. She’s three. But we’re positive they’re in there.) You cannot control her with punishment nor bribery, though she loves the work of making others happy. She genuinely seeks to please, but on her own terms.

The practical parent in me screams in agony. Everything in me wants to rail against this and keep her safe. We could break this spirit we can keep her safe from the world. Safe from the scrapes and bruises of her attempts. Safe from her failures, because she seems to approach challenges that are catastrophically bigger in size and scope than her siblings ever did, and it scares the bejebus out of me.

But for the good of the world, we cannot.

We cannot quench this spirit. It takes someone with this kind of fearless spirit to stand up for the bullied student when the rest of the class points and laughs. It takes this ferocity to believe we can change things like homelessness or human trafficking or cycles of drug abuse and poverty and actually begin to do something about it.  Her belief that she is bigger than whatever might bring her down is what will make a person of action. That fire we wish to stifle is what will bring light into this dark world.

Parenting is hard. God gave such precious, unique, beautiful souls and we’re figuring out how to help them glow while simultaneously stopping them from self-destruction. God help us to fan the flame while not loosing our minds or breaking our hearts.

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