My daughter, Elissa, had a birthday while I was away in Scotland. I got to wish her a happy birthday via Facebook and text. However, I missed getting to see her and have our traditional birthday dinner. Tonight 13 family members gathered at Rib Crib, in Joplin, to celebrate Elissa!
Elissa is my firstborn, the child who made me a mommy. When I was still a child, all I wanted to be, when I grew up, was a mom. I used to sit and daydream, in one of my solitary places, about the children I would someday have. Three years into my marriage and one miscarriage later, I began to wonder if that dream would go unfulfilled. I spent a year reading about the gift of children, preparing for the role that I still hoped to embrace. I was given a Divine promise, that I would become a “joyful mother of children”. I believed! Shortly afterward, I found out I was pregnant. When Elissa Dawn was born and placed in my arms, I thought my heart would burst, so great was my joy.
This beautiful girl, intelligent, creative and witty, has taught me so much, about parenting and about life. Fiercely independent, since her toddler days, she has never ceased to amaze me with her ability to learn and grow, adapt and create. She was my perfectionist child and in her I saw myself and my own need for perfection. We both learned to let mistakes be okay. Everyone in my family is artistic and most of us draw or create by looking at a picture and copying what we see. Elissa is gifted with the ability to draw and create from her imagination. She is an amazing cartoonist and illustrator, creating the book covers for all three of my mom’s published children’s books.
My daughter’s passion has always been horses. She loves most animals and has the ability to connect with them easily and deeply. But her great love is reserved for the mighty horse. During her teen years she spent many hours each week at the stable where she took riding lessons and boarded her horses. Elissa was happiest when she was mucking out stalls or seated in the saddle atop a magnificent mare or gelding. I spent many hours watching her compete all over the Midwest or simply care for and train horses at the stable.
One of the greatest aha moments that I had as a mom came as I stood leaning on a fence, observing Elissa as she worked with yearlings in an indoor arena. “Watch this one,” she called out to me, “he’s naturally gaited. He will make a great show horse.” I noted the high stepping little colt as he ran around in a huge circle. “And this one is a jumper.” She laughed as another young horse ran toward the end of the arena and sailed over the gate. Elissa carefully studied each horse and then worked with them, in accordance with their gifting and natural abilities. Standing there listening to my wise daughter, I suddenly had clarity on a scripture that many use rearing children. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.” The interpretation usually given is to discipline a child in order to modify behavior so that he will grow up decently. Watching Elissa, a new meaning came to me. Perhaps I was instructed to observe my children, note their gifts and encourage them, “train” them, “in the way they should go” meaning to guide them to follow their hearts and use their God given abilities and desires. It wasn’t about correcting, it was about allowing, and working with, not against. My parenting style shifted that day and my sweet daughter, happily in her element, with hay clinging to her shirt and jeans, was to thank for that shift. I am forever grateful.
My girl is a mom herself now, an amazing one, with a wonderful son. Elissa has spent most of her adult life working as a legal assistant and spent a year working for me as my assistant. She currently has an awesome job with a progressive and innovative company in downtown Joplin where her attention to detail and her ability to learn quickly allows her to shine. And she’s recently begun to ride again, engaging her passion for all things equestrian. Her dream is to someday own and operate a horse training and boarding facility. I have no doubts that she will accomplish all that she wants to do. Happy birthday, precious daughter. May joy, beauty and happiness continue to surround you!