Children don’t know it, but there are moments in life where your parents are prouder of you than you are of yourself.
That’s how I felt when my 9-year-old daughter confidently walked into the rabbit show arena at the Putnam County Fair last week and proceeded to win second place in showmanship in the first-year division.
I understand a lot of people win ribbons at the fair, and all of their parents are proud. I know she didn’t exactly win in a high-profile category, such as grand champion steer. In our case, though, our expectations were extremely low.
We’d never raised an animal as a 4-H project before. While I worked on a farm during summers of high school, I’ve always lived in town. This rabbit hanging out in our basement for the last few months was a weird experience. It never seemed like our daughter was that into the project. She seemed a little scared of the puffy hopper.
Our middle daughter is often described as my clone. She shares a lot of positive traits as a quick learner with a sarcastic wit. She can make people laugh, if she just has the courage to say what’s on her mind.
The courage is the part that worried me most, though. I know her struggle. I can write 500 words a week to share my soul with a stranger, but most vocal conversations with me last about 50 words and never get terribly deep, unless I’m forced to probe for my vocation. She, too, lacks the courage to believe anyone cares what she has to say. She lets the fear of saying something wrong keep her from saying anything at all at times.
She worries a lot, about everything that can go wrong. She avoids unfamiliar circumstances. She always wants to look like she knows what’s happening and what should happen.
Or maybe not, when she has a goal in mind. She owned an unfamiliar environment. She confidently walked in front of a crowd of people and talked to the judge while carefully working with an animal. And she impressed them enough to earn a ribbon.
Here I stood worrying she’d break down crying or let her rabbit hop away. I imagined all the awful things that could happen, as I’m sure she had too. She ignored all that and did her best.
That’s all any of us can really do in any situation. Fear can keep us safe, but safe can keep us from enjoying our lives.
She may think of that ribbon as proof her hard work paid off. It’s a reward for a year of taking care of that animal and learning about her.
I’ll think of that ribbon as proof my daughter has a brighter future than I do. Every father wants his child to have a better life than his own, and I’m already seeing she has gifts I never could have dreamt of having at her age.