By Karen Driscoll
You stand, daredevil-high, on metal monkey bars, oblivious to danger.
"Don't," I warn. "It's not safe." And you grudgingly oblige me and hang down closer to the earth. I stand guard anyway, but glance away for a moment, distracted by twilight. I look back to see you fall.
You come up gasping, nose and mouth already bleeding. Horrified, I hold you tightly and try to absorb the hurt. You cry loudly for your pain, and I cry for all the ways I cannot protect you.
In a very few minutes, you collect yourself. With a long, quivering sniffle and a brave, shaky breath, you brush away the remaining bark mulch that I have missed and give me a slightly teary-eyed, crooked smile.
"Mommy, I really want to get back on. And this time, I want to do a back flip." You say this even though your lip is still bleeding.
My surprise mingles with awe, respect, and pride, and I see more than my tear-stained three-year-old daughter standing before me. I see the raw material of courage. I see the makings of perseverance and determination. I see a girl with something that I didn't put inside her, a girl who has something that nobody can take away. I see you, my daughter, a child who falls down but keeps dancing. And I see once again that I am the student, and you are the inspiration.
As I hoist your small body up to the bar, my thought is a prayer, for you and for me: "Don't ever let go of this."
Karen Driscoll has a master's degree in elementary and special education. She is currently at home full-time with her four children, ages 5, 5, 3 and 1. She lives in Connecticut and can be reached at email@example.com