On Whitnie’s preschool picture day about 20 years ago, they offered the option to bring siblings to be photographed as well. I brought Kaiti, though she was too young to even go to school. I remember her sitting perfectly still for the photo session. The man snapped the pic and the moment he left, she burst into tears. It was too scary for her.

I learned something that day about this girl…that I needed to be more in tune with her unique fragility so her strength could shine; I needed to allow her to take the reins in her own hands a bit more. She couldn’t be forced, she had to be allowed. To be her in her own way. I certainly didn’t get it right all of the time. And sometimes, it was almost too scary for me. Because when I handed over the reins to Kaiti, she took off full speed ahead. Rock climbing, sky diving, parasailing. Moving to the point on the planet further from home. Camping in the wilds of Australia. A tattoo that means, “create your own destiny.” Inspiring others to be kinder and gentler. These are just a few of the ways she takes in the world in her own unique way.

Most recently we were in New Zealand and Kaiti had the idea that for her birthday, she needed to bungee jump off of a bridge. I fought it until I remembered that pre-preschool moment. So I sat with her on the ledge as a stranger tied a rope to my daughter’s legs. Kt was visibly scared yet had that sparkle in her eye. Truth be told, it was really too scary for me. I couldn’t watch the fall, but I did get the picture of her standing on the ledge, smiling. I snapped the pic, she jumped, and I burst into tears, knowing that the reins were now, and would be forever more, officially in her hands.

This pic is Kaiti soaring into the air, out of her childhood and into whatever adventures await. Since that teary pre preschool pic day, she’s grown up to be brilliance and kindness, graceful fragility and abundant strength. Happy 21st golden birthday to Kaiti. The planet became a more beautiful and exhilarating place the day this girl joined the world.

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