Sarah Kate has always been a fighter.
When she was only one day old, Mr. Andi and I sat in the NICU, helplessly looking on as her duty nurse poked, prodded, checked, and rechecked her vitals, her IV, and all of the other things that nurses check when babies are born weighing only two-and-a-half pounds. Because we could do nothing else, we asked questions.
The nurse patiently answered us, and I wondered how many other parents had asked her the same questions. It was just another day at work for her, but for us it was all scary and new. After a few minutes, she volunteered some information that it had never occurred to us to request – that Sarah Kate was feisty. I didn’t quite understand how she could know that, or even why it mattered, but she explained that it’s a good sign when a baby is feisty, because they tend to have fewer problems. Just like adults, their prognosis is improved if they are willing to fight. Every three hours, the nurses would poke and prod her, and every time they did she would scream her head off. Once they stopped, she would calm down and go back to sleep.
Over the years, she’s demonstrated time and again how tough she is and how hard she will push and scrape to get or do what she wants. She asks me before every softball game to play Christina Aguilera’s song, “Fighter,” and I always oblige her, because it fits. She was born fighting and has never let up.
But one incident from her early childhood illustrates her tenacity perfectly.
We were at a barbecue at the home of some friends when Sarah Kate was about two and a half. The host couple had a son very close in age to Sarah Kate (I’ll call him W) and they played together often. He was a rough-and-tumble boy, much like Nathan, who flitted from one thing to the next and created a wide path of destruction wherever he went, because … boy. Sarah Kate, by contrast, was calm and sat quietly most of the time – partly because it was her nature, but mostly (I think) because she didn’t have the ability to run around and be rowdy. She was still a long way from walking, swimming, and softball in those days.
Mr. Andi and I, along with several other couples and all of their various children, were out in the barn. The concrete floor was littered with some of W’s more durable, larger toys, and I sat on one side of the room with Sarah Kate kneeling at my feet, playing with a bright yellow dump truck. W was running around the room reveling in all of the excitement and activity.
Suddenly, he stopped in his tracks.
He saw Sarah Kate playing with his dump truck and I could tell from the expression on his face that he wasn’t pleased. He bolted toward her from across the room, grabbed it with both hands, and tried to wrest it away from her. He was bigger than her and stronger than her, so it should have been an easy win for him.
But it wasn’t.
She had seen him coming and steeled herself for the assault. Unlike most two-year-olds, however, she didn’t try to pull it away from him. Instead, she gripped the truck tightly with both hands and braced her upper body and looked directly at him. As he yanked and jerked, attempting to snatch it away from her, his blond locks bouncing and bobbing, she sat motionless and unflinching. If looks could kill, he’d have dropped dead right there on the floor of the barn, so intent and determined was her gaze.
Eventually, he overpowered her and managed to make off with the truck. When he did, she didn’t cry or pout. In fact, she didn’t react at all. She merely accepted her defeat against a worthy opponent and moved on to something else.Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter – from “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera