i bet you’re proud…

This kiddo officially completed her basic training, and the response we receive most from friends and family is “I bet you’re proud.” I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m feeling and attempting to pinpoint the emotions that are swirling. 

Pride isn’t among them. It’s Hannah’s accomplishment; Hannah’s work; Hannah’s the one who should feel proud.

Humility is the emotion that is wrapping around me and would knock my legs out from under me if the broken ankle didn’t already do the job. I’m humbled I get to be her mom. I’m humbled that Hannah was entrusted to our care when she was six-years-old. 

Andy and I have been rooting for her ever since. 

We could have missed the opportunity to love her unconditionally. Saying yes to the adoption of two young girls was illogical. It’s been many years of navigating senseless situations, as children who come from dark starts in life often behave in erratic ways. We keep loving her, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when she pushes away, even when love looks pointless. It is not nearly as romantic as it sounds. In fact, it’s kind of a rotten deal to love those who push away and self-destruct. We’ve learned to let go and let her set her own course…and live with the consequences. 

She called a day before she set out for the crucible. They don’t get phone calls, and I had not heard her voice for months. My heart sunk to my stomach when I heard her on the other end of the phone. She shouldn’t be calling. It was unlikely to be good news. 

Her words tumbled out low and slow. “I’m worried about you…I feel like I messed up…that I should be there to help you…maybe I should give up and come home.” I tried to process what she was saying. In my silence, the words continued to flow. “I didn’t pass my last physical fitness test, but they packed me for the crucible anyway. I could give up, though. I could quit and come home. Then I could be there to help you.”

She was quiet, the unsaid words were louder than the spoken words.

“Why would you give up?” I asked.

“To come home and help you. I’m worried about you with your broken ankle and surgery.”

“I’m fine,” I blurted.

“Who’s helping you? I should be there helping you. If only I would have followed my plans, I would be there with you, and things would be right.”

The silence tethered our hearts. I took a deep breath, and asked Hannah to do the same.

“If you were going to quit, you should  have done it at the beginning. You are one challenge away from completion, and you are not going to bail because you think you need to help me. That’s a crutch, Hannah, and not one you can use.”

“I’ve made so many mistakes, Mom.”

“Hannah, you are growing wings. Sometimes it hurts, but that doesn’t mean you give up. You are about to soar. There is no reason to give up, especially not the reasons you are giving. I am fine. The best thing you can do is go spread your wings.”

“So you’re saying I shouldn’t give up?”

“What do you think?” I countered

“I think I shouldn’t give up.”

“I think you should go soar,” I said. 

“After this is over, my assignment is in San Diego.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. “You’re going to love it,” I said.

Hannah was quiet.

“You should take another deep breath,” I said, “and remember…”

I hear Hannah breathe. She whispered, “You love me more.”

“We’re rooting for you, Hannah.”

“I know. I’ve gotta go.”

The phone disconnected, and Andy and I locked eyes. We blinked back tears, and it reminded me of the moment I first held Sam just moments after birth. The nurses took him from my arms, then ushered us into the maternity ward hallway, and I looked up. Andy and I locked eyes. We blinked back tears, and in that moment we were tethered by a mutual love for a child we would always be rooting for.

Andy slipped his arm around my shoulders and squeezed my upper arm. “She’s going to be okay,” he said. “You said all the things she needed to hear,” he said. 

“I hope she’ll quit being angry and insecure and that she’ll embrace her new wings and discover she has deep roots.”

Andy’s thumb mindlessly rubbed my shoulder. “She’s too stubborn to give up,” he said.

I chuckled, knowing he is right. “I’m glad we’re still rooting for her. Whatever happens, I like knowing that we are going to be hoping for the best.”

When she called with the good news, I said, “Hannah, I hope you are proud of yourself.”

“I am,” she said. “I’m glad I didn’t give up.”

No, it’s not pride that is filling my heart at Hannah’s honorable and remarkable accomplishment. It is humility, because we didn’t miss this moment. I’m glad we kept showing up when she pushed away. I’m glad we kept loving when it seemed pointless to love. I’m glad we let her go to make mistakes and hit rock bottom and figure things out. We could have missed this moment in a million different ways, and I am humbled that we didn’t.

Let's Be Email Pals!

Teaching writers doesn't have to drown us.

Enter your information to receive my free eBook, plus weekly tips and encouragement for teaching writers.

Don't worry, I won't send you spam, and you can unsubscribe any time. (I'd hate to see you go, though.) Powered by ConvertKit


    • Thank you, Tam. I’m glad to have captured the moment. And it left me wanting to write more.

  1. What a loving story of what it means to be a parent. Hannah must be a 2, the helper, on the Enneagram. She was so torn between what she felt she needed to do for you without deeply considering what she needed to do for herself. I’m glad you had the wisdom to guide her. What a wonderful accomplishment.

  2. The message of humility is one we all need to hear more often – for out of it comes deep gratitude. Such radiant smiles on your faces-! And oh, that advice to Hannah on perspective – “growing wings” – we all need to hear that more often, too, for that growth and the discomfort of it go on as long as we live. Just beautiful, Ruth – and congratulations to your family and to Hannah most of all.

  3. I love this post! Way to go Ruth, Andy, and Hannah! Especially hit home with – “I’m glad we kept showing up when she pushed away. I’m glad we kept loving when it seemed pointless to love. I’m glad we let her go to make mistakes and hit rock bottom and figure things out. We could have missed this moment in a million different ways, and I am humbled that we didn’t.” SO IMPORTANT. Applies to teachers and students too.
    Thank you!

  4. Way to go, Hannah! You stayed the course even when the going was tough. Spread your wings and take off.
    And way to go, Ruth and Andy, for guiding her along the way, showing up, loving, and letting her make mistakes!