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Sunny In My Shadow

I recently won third place in Bethesda Magazine’s essay writing contest.  I thought I’d share this bit of motherly prose with you.  Published with the permission of my beautiful daughter, Sunny.



woman tying shoelaces

You know I get you, right?

I was a twelve-year-old for nearly twenty-five years.  I am qualified to judge you.  I wrote the book on adolescent angst. Lucky for you, I’ve almost completely outgrown it.

Slouchy and shy, you are desperate to veil sixty-eight inches of spindly extremities under a cloak of invisibility. You hate that you inconvenience the shorter masses who crane their necks when you speak.  You are a whole head taller than the sixth grade class.  Welcome to the weather up here.

Just once, you’d like to run into a parent who didn’t remark, “Wow, you are SO TALL!”

And you’d like to think that you have more career options other than basketball star.

You’d like to believe that the curtain of hair covering your face makes you less visible, and that by not styling it to its shiniest potential, you are avoiding admiration.  You hope that no one will notice that your eyes are as blue as a northern lake, and that your smile can turn dirt into diamonds.  You defensively declare that boys don’t matter, and affirm it with a shoulder slug.

Don’t let them see that fragile little heart, tough girl.

So today when I asked you to go for a jog with me, your sweet little snarl was a lovely shot of wry.  It made my heart smile at the miracle of genetics.

I ran without you, all the way to the golf course, into the setting sun.  On the way back, you joined me.

I didn’t see you at first, but as I rounded the corner and the sunbeams broke over my shoulder, my shadow stretched thin across the blacktop.

There you were.

Your feet rose from mine. Your legs, long and elegant, stretched absurdly from heel to hip across the entire width of the road.  I saw the flutter in your stride, the strength in your shoulders, the bounce in your ponytail.  I’d know you anywhere.

And when I nearly laughed out loud at our similarities, it was your gesture I saw… Sunny in my shadow.

I don’t bother to tell you how pretty you are.  That your figure is stunning.  That you are fire and rain and earth and sun and the most natural beauty in the world.

I know that you don’t want to hear that from me.

You want me to love you at your ugliest, your messiest, and your snarliest.  And I’ll do it gladly too, because I know that validation is born from quiet promises.

I promise to celebrate your goofiness and your clumsiness and your pimples and your sneer.  I promise to nourish your brain and your heart with goodness and stuff them full of generous praise, enough for you to share with all your friends.

And once you’ve matured and you’re ready to shed the invisibility cloak, the insecurities, and the snarl, I’ll hang them up in the closet for you.

You’ll need them again when you’re a mother.



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