Dreams For My Daughter

My baby daughter's life is full of possibilities I never saw for myself.

Woman and infant daughter sit on couch
Photo: Courtesy of Lottie Joiner

Each morning, when I take my 3-month-old daughter out of her swaddle, she raises both arms over her head like she's about to conquer the world. It's quite a scene and I smile every time.I want her to have that feeling every day of her life—like she can conquer the world.

I already see it in her. I look down at her and say, "Good morning Isabella, did you sleep well?" She looks up at me with bright beautiful eyes and gives me the biggest smile. My heart swells. I see so much promise in my daughter. She gives me hope.

She is curious and smart and braver than I ever was. She is also feisty and can be quite demanding at times. She grabs the things that she wants and lets go of the things that don't serve her. A nurse once described her as "determined."

As her mother, I have to protect my daughter from the things that will harm her. But I don't want to take away the things that make her uniquely her. I never want her to dim her light. I want her to shine. Something I've always been afraid to do.

In junior high school, I admired a classmate named Wendy. Wendy was smart, well-spoken, self-confident, and self-assured. Some folks would have described her as chubby, but she didn't allow her size to define her or get in the way of her ambitions. In high school, Wendy was always a part of the student government and once declared that she hoped to be the first Black female governor in Mississippi. When she was running for class president, she wanted me to introduce her before the debates. I was too shy and self-conscious, so I declined.

I wasn't thin either, and I was described as "smart," but I was not confident and had low self-esteem. My mother died of lupus when I was 10 years old, and I was trying to navigate life without my biggest cheerleader and supporter. I felt unprotected. I looked to others for validation and approval. I put too much stock in what others thought of me.

I don't want my daughter to be like me.

Right now, Isabella has a youthful fearlessness that children sometimes lose on the way to adulthood. There comes a time when they abandon their natural ambition and resign to the status quo. At some point, an adult will tell them what they can't do or society, through images and actions, will tell them what they can't be.

I want Isabella to have the courage to pursue her dreams and become the person God created her to be. I want my daughter to fight for what she wants, like she does now, and not settle. I don't want her to be swayed by others' opinions of who they think she is or should be. I will be there to encourage her, lift her up, and guide her when she needs me.

I want my daughter to embrace who she is. I don't want her to ever be afraid to do the things that make her heart smile. 

In the weeks after she was born, I would put my hand on my daughter's forehead, close my eyes and say affirmations: You are beautiful. You are smart. You are kind. You are creative. You are talented. You are brilliant.

I would open my eyes and she would be staring at me.

I know she doesn't know what I'm saying now, but eventually, these words will go on her wall so that when she wakes up every day, she will be reminded of her brilliance.

I want my daughter to embrace who she is. I don't want her to ever be afraid to do the things that make her heart smile.

I want her to be brave enough to stand on her values like Stacey Abrams, who is running again to become Georgia's first Black female governor. Who knows? My daughter may end up serving in the highest office in the land like Vice President Kamala Harris. Her creativity may provide the opportunity to perform in front of millions like youth poet Amanda Gorman who, at only 22 years old, recited her poem "The Hill We Climb" at President Joe Biden's inauguration. Isabella may have athletic abilities like Venus and Serena or be interested in science like COVID-19 vaccine pioneer Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who played a key role in developing the Moderna vaccine, saving millions of lives.

The possibilities are endless. I see so much promise in my daughter's eyes. I know she has what it takes to change the world.

No, I don't want her to be like me. I want her to stay "determined."

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