Once upon a time, there was a little girl.
Her name was Aden, and she was very beautiful and very, very naughty…
Aden means Beautiful in Hebrew and Fiery in Celtic. And I never, ever, ever believe people when they say names don’t mean anything, because, Hello, my Beautiful and Fiery girl!
Oh, Miss Aden, how I love you.
A year ago at this time, the anticipation was killing me – Killing Me! – because my baby girl was coming off of a couple of creative school suspensions, and she was headed to a week away at Girls Camp, and I didn’t know how it would go. I didn’t know if she’d make it through the week because an entire week is a long time in which to be kind and to try to make friends and to flick no one in the face.
I spent the week Aden was away at Girls Camp with bated breath.
Argh! I just hate that place in mamahood where we don’t know! Have you visited that place? That place where we wonder if we’ll look back someday and giggle at their crazy childhood antics… or whether we’ll have to bake cookies for prison visitation day? It’s a hard mental mama place.
But she did it! Oh, my Aden girl rocked that camp and didn’t burn anything down. She was awesome.
And here we are, a year later.
A whole year later.
A year of Not Knowing.
A year of Breath Holding.
A year of Wondering.
A year that slowly morphed, as Aden learned to communicate and to be kind and to make friends, into a year of Trusting.
A year of Courage.
A year of Pats on the Back.
And a year of Earning Privileges.
Oh, the difference a year can make!
Aden came home the last day of school with a note. It was a scrap of plain white paper cut from a bigger sheet, photocopied and obviously distributed to masses of children. It was, clearly, nothing special.
Aden handed me the note beaming. Glowing with fierce pride. I scanned the message, I handed it back, and I asked Aden to read it out loud because I knew I couldn’t do it without choking up.
Congratulations! Aden read. This student has had no major or minor referrals this year.
No major OR minor referrals this year.
No visiting the principal’s office.
A year of Working Hard to Make Miracles.
A year of WOW!
Aden stood on her chair at dinner that night to read her note out loud, and our entire family gave her a standing ovation that held not even the tiniest stitch of irony.
Aden leaves on Sunday for camp again. Year #2 of Girls Camp! Last year, I was worried. And though this entire essay paints the picture that I was mostly worried about her behavior, I think you’ll be unsurprised to learn that my worry was for my baby. Because Aden was headed into a place filled to the brim with potential friends, and though she’d begun to understand the methods and application of Appropriate Behavior, she didn’t yet know how to cross the Bridge of Friendship. But she so desperately longed for a friend. And nine years is sure a long time to go without one.
Dear God, I prayed. Help her. Please. Please, please, please help her. Help her negotiate this tricky Girl World. Help her to be kind. Help her find forgiveness when she makes mistakes. But mostly, God, help my baby girl find her way. Help her find the way to be her truest, deepest self. Help her find the spunky, confident, funny kid she is… full of fire and passion and beauty. And help her find a friend.
And then there was Grace.
There, in the middle of camp, grace in the shape of an 8-year-old girl who doesn’t like to brush her hair and who hates chocolate and who rolls her eyes in great big, sweeping eye rolls and who is wise and compassionate beyond her years – Grace grabbed Aden’s heart and didn’t let go.
Grace gave Aden a real shot at a real friendship.
And Grace has continued to hold Aden close and to treasure her and to encourage her and to push her to excel and to love her true, crazy self, the way that the very best girlfriends do.
Her name, for real, is Grace.
And Aden made a second good friend this year.
Guess what her name is?
Grace. Her name is Grace, too.
It makes me want to sit down for beers with God – to collapse bonelessly and breathlessly into our regular booth at the pub – and clink our bottles and shake my head in amazement and smile through my weary, happy tears and say, “Good one, God. Really, really good one. That was just extraordinarily well played.” Clink.
Because you know what? In the midst of my lowest mama moments of worry and confusion and fear and angst – the ones when I didn’t know and hated the Not Knowing – God knew.
God knew that Aden needed a double measure of Grace.
And that I did, too.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl.
Her name was Aden, which means Beautiful and Fiery. And she had two friends named Grace…