Among the gifts my kiddos received for Christmas, a Barnes and Noble gift certificate may be the holy grail. The kids love the freedom to roam the store and spend away. I love the knowledge that there is not an ingredient for slime to be found. We set limits on how much must be spent on a book…a real book…not one with stickers or a gel pen or an attached Shopkins. One with words woven into a story. My crew of four is set free to roam the children’s section and I sneak away to browse. I love the feeling of a book. The different textures of a book covers. The small snap a hardcover book makes when it’s binding is opened for the first time. The thousands of books with their millions of words waiting to be consumed. A quiet bookstore may be one of my favorite places. I do not read on a Kindle or an app, I want to feel the pages and turn a corner to keep my spot. Several years ago, I let go of my fear of writing in books. And now the pages of the books I read are filled with underlines or notes jotted in the margins. I draw boxes around words that stand out to me. I doodle hearts and stars alongside passages that speak to my soul. I am determined to scroll less and read more in this last year of my thirties.

It was on our annual Barnes and Noble gift card spending extravaganza this year, when my little Vivian picked out this book. In all honesty, first she picked out half a dozen other books with Hatchimals or Doc McStuffins or Disney Princesses gracing their covers. But one of the cardinal rules of the gift card spending- mama has final rule on the book. They get free reign on the portion of their gift card that can be spent in the toys sections of a BOOK store…irony anyone?? But mom and dad get to glance through the pages of their books. I didn’t even need to feel that snap of the binding for the first time to know that this little board book had a rightful place on our shelf.

Here’s the thing about the holiday season with four kids, it kind of feels like a circus. Not just feels like, it is a circus. A candy cane fueled, sleepless season filled with high emotion and noise, lots and lots of noise. Unfortunately, reading fell by the wayside for all of us and that little book sat on Vivian’s shelf unread until last night. I am craving routine so it was back to bedtime stories and Vivian pulled her unread book off the shelf. As I read her the book about all of these amazing women and girls who did incredible things, I thought of how I wanted to read this to my troop of kindergarten Daisy scouts. Nail down that empowerment message.

At the end of the book there is this page. Honestly, I nearly skipped over it. I was tired and ready to head downstairs for a few minutes of quiet before it was my own bedtime. But Vivian looked at this page and said very confidently, “That mystery girl will be me someday”.

Here’s the thing about parenting this wild haired curly top and her siblings, I never think of them as older than they are now. I never imagined being the mother of a preteen, a teen, a young adult, and, definitely, NEVER an adult. My story always included diapers and bedtime stories and children who still fit in my lap…even if it’s a “kind of” fit. But mothering children who were creating their own stories never crossed my mind. Crazy, huh?

This is the age I pictured my children to be for eternity.

But after reading that book my little Vivian saw herself in all of those trailblazers. Those women who broke barriers like Wilma Rudolph and Sonia Sotomayor, or showed extreme bravery like Rosa Parks or Malala Yousafzai. Those women who  may have been wild haired curly topped little girls listening to books read by their mamas.  Vivian never thought to imagine that what those women did was outside of anything she was capable of doing. She knows that one day her story will lead her to do great things, break new ground, be a trailblazer.  I tried to ask her about what kind of brave things she may do. She has no details, no plan. Just blank story pages laid out before her.

This morning I woke up and tried to have a different perspective on parenting this brood. As I kissed their sweet faces and sent them off to school, I prayed that as their mom I can find a way to help them write their story. Help them live out all of these dreams they have in their souls. Nurture their confidence to become the mystery girl (or boy) in the book. Encourage them to be little trailblazers of their own. And when I lose my confidence in myself as a mother or an author of my own story, I know just the wild haired curly top who can show me the way.

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