I got what I wanted. After having a son, I wanted to see what it would be like to have a daughter. And that’s just what I got, four Leap Years ago today. A special girl on a special day.
She was smaller than her brother when she arrived, 5 pounds 9 ounces. But, unlike her brother, she got to go home with us immediately, rather than hang around the NICU for a while. Which may have been a sign of things to come.
From early on, she was stubborn. While I was never a big fan of waking up in the middle of the night to feed either of the kids, once I was awake I did see it as an opportunity to “steal” some one-on-one time with them. Her brother was easy to cuddle and rock back to sleep. Samantha, on the other hand, had other ideas. I would tuck her securely in my arms while giving her a bottle. But, after a few moments, she would wriggle and squirm, seemingly quite uncomfortable in her circumstances. So I would wrap her up in her blanket and lay her in my lap, hoping to give her some sense of snugness and security. But, after a few moments, she would resume her wriggly routine until she had escaped her blanket and I set her on the couch cushion next to me. From then on, she would be still. And free.
In some ways, her stubbornness made me smarter. When David would do something wrong, I could generally just tell him what to do to correct or atone for his behavior and he would. When trying that tactic with Samantha, she would just flat refuse. Eventually, after many instances of figurative head-butting, we figured out that she needed to feel like she was in control of her situation. Which meant that we had to give her a choice: choose to do the right thing or choose to accept the consequences. It was certainly more difficult having to frame every instance with choices (especially making sure the right choice always seemed the best option), but it certainly kept my brain on its toes. And, thankfully, she would select the right choice the vast majority of the time.
And her choices have made me immensely proud. She is a good friend and a good sister and a good babysitter, sometimes all three at once. She can get Linus and Arlo to bed in record time. And though she’s threatened it many times, she’s never actually killed any of her younger siblings. She is compassionate and loving and sensitive. Sometimes, when she can tell things are not quite right with me, she will clean my kitchen without being asked. It always makes me feel better. She asked for a purity ring for Christmas, which couldn’t relieve more anxiety for me as the father of a beautiful daughter.
She has also emulated some of the things I’ve done. She participated in the grade school spelling bee and did very well. She’s an excellent writer who never fails to impress me with her skills at such a young age. She has a goofy sense of humor and can make me laugh at the drop of the hat just by making a slack-jawed idiot face. And while she still has a ways to go, her dancing is getting closer to my skill level. But mostly, and most importantly, she is fiercely and decidedly her own person. I know it’s been tough being constantly linked to her brother all her life but she has always been distinct in her own identity.
I remember being a little sad right before she was born because it meant that our one-on-one time with David would effectively be eliminated. But Samantha got the last laugh. Because now that David is off doing his own thing much of the time, it means I get a lot more one-on-one time with Sam at an age where we can both appreciate it more. Although, she’s still a little squirmy.
Sixteen years ago I was hoping for a girl. I didn’t realize how lucky I would be to get her.