My first grandchild Arya Grace Gutierrez was born 3 weeks early, capping off the fastest warm-up to grandpahood ever. While my daughter was shocked to find out about being pregnant when she was already 5 months along, it was another shock to find out that the doctor wanted to induce labor on Friday after a normal checkup revealed low amniotic fluid. Nothing emergency or dangerous, just life saying, “Don’t forget, you’re on my schedule!”.

Above is a video slideshow I made for her when she gave me the news. I wanted to let her truly know how much I believed in her.

This has me thinking philosophically (I know, big surprise!), and in this case, learning a lesson from my 20 year old daughter Brittney (now also known as Arya’s mommy). My daughter is not naive to the life-changing impact this beautiful event would have on her. She  and her 19 year old sister Ashley have helped to raise four younger sisters with their mom and step-dad. She knows the true impact this event had in store for her life. With only three months notice, rather than the usual eight to nine usually given to first time mothers, she never let the event overwhelm her. She handled it with grace and valor. She accepted help when it was needed and bore down and fought like a Viking shield-maiden when it was time to plant her feet and push. At 6:01 pm last Sunday, my daughter’s life was turned beautifully upside down by a 6lb, 3oz miracle and she took the first step on a strange new road with unblinking courage.

As a father, it’s natural for me to take pride in my children, and I gladly help myself to heaping portions of it with all four of them. While I hope that my love as her father has been a good influence on her, the truth is, this is all Brittney. She knows the path that she is starting on is one that she will never leave. She knows very well that her life will be infinitely more challenging and never again will it be centered solely on her. In spite of the height of the summit suddenly before her, I saw my little girl step boldly onto the first steps of that lifelong path leading up the mountain that is parenthood.

As a parent, it’s only natural to worry about your children being confronted with the great difficulties that life will inevitably bring. Could we possibly have done enough? There is so much for them to learn and so many things to fear. Did I give her everything she needs? How can I ever let go? What I learned from my daughter and Arya is that we never have to let go. When they’re ready, they will step out from the circle of your arms, grab your hand and walk beside you.

One of the greatest memories I will ever have is holding her hand as she fought to bring Arya into this world. She laughed and cried as she took her new baby from the nurse, never showing a shadow of fear or hesitation. In that moment, she took up her shield and became Arya’s guardian, leaving the safety of my protection and setting out to guide her own family.

Thanks to being able to witness my daughter’s personification of valor and grace, I am reaffirmed on my own course. Regardless of the new challenges rising before me, I know that I too must simply step boldly forward and continue the next chapter of my journey without fear. When you start learning lessons from your kids, you know you’ve done something right. In this post, I am not the teacher. Today we all follow my daughter. She is strong. She is brave. She is a Valkyrie Shield Maiden and her steps through life will follow a noble path. She is valor and grace. She is a mother.

Valorandgrace

P.S. I want to take this time to appreciate my ex-ex-wife Kristi and her husband John Paul. I am so relieved that the two of you have come together and created a great home for our girls in a time when I can’t provide enough and am overwhelmed just taking care of  myself. There is a good chance that later this year could see a huge improvement and a return of the old me via DBS brain surgery. Until then, I rest easy with them under your roof. Expect regular visits from Grandalf, though I do promise not to mark up your door with my staff. To Nick, I have to say, you have started off on this path very well. Stay true to it. Being a great father comes naturally when you put the needs of your family ahead of your own. I believe you can do this. You have my trust.