At Seven, A Name That Fits

She turned seven a couple of weeks ago, our Mighty, and I’ve been thinking about what I’d say about her ever since.

Her interests haven’t changed all that much since last year. She still loves butterflies, and horses, and riding her bike. There’s some stuff that’s new: she started playing soccer this spring and was awesome to watch. She learned how to really read this year, and you know as well as I do there’s no better sight than seeing your own child curled up in a chair with a book. She isn’t as afraid anymore, and that’s the thing, I think. That’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Here’s what I find funny: Quinlan said earlier this year that she didn’t like her name, which isn’t funny at all, really, especially when you know that I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying that if she’d just stuck with Quinn like we’d wanted to call her, maybe she wouldn’t be complaining.

Don’t worry. I didn’t say that. But I do secretly call her Quinn when she’s not looking. She doesn’t know, right?

She said she didn’t like her name because it wasn’t “soft” sounding, and I think she meant because the syllables ended on such hard consonants. She thought it wasn’t pretty enough. So a couple of weeks ago, around her birthday, on a whim we looked up the origin of the name Quinlan. And you know what we found? It means “graceful.” What do you know. So then we got a little crazy and looked up St. Grace, since Grace is Quinn’s (I’m sorry, QUINLAN’s) middle name, much like every other child in America her age (Grace being the new Marie of middle names, as it were).

And do you want to know something about St. Grace? She was a convert who was martyred for trying to bring her brother to the faith, too (he turned her in to the authorities, because apparently sibling rivalry was a little more high octane back then). If you see paintings of St. Grace, she’s often depicted holding an ax. You realize what I get from this, right?

Grace was mighty. Again: what do you know.

So I see my girl–my beautiful Quinlan Grace, with the crazy red curls and greenish-hazel eyes and freckles that pop up across her nose at the first sign of spring sunshine. I see the nose and mouth and chin that are undeniably mine (sorry, kid), the thin little limbs that don’t seem like they’re strong enough to withstand all that jumping and tumbling and running she puts them through.

And yet. Our Mighty Quinn is, in fact, the graceful Mighty. I needed to sit with that a while.

The child has grown beyond our hopes this year. From everything to her handwriting, to her reading, to–and in my mind, most important–her confidence, she has grown up so much. Gotten so much better, more adept. She is brave. She doesn’t suffer fools. And she is just as likely to wrap her arms around me in a hug that doesn’t end as she is to smack her brother across the shoulders when she thinks we’re not looking. But she’ll still give her sister the bigger half of a shared cookie. She’ll volunteer her allowance money to buy her brother a treat. She’ll also insist on being right when she is certain she is. She cannot HANDLE unfairness, but will quietly fume before she explodes. She will repeat our names, or a question, or a statement, over and over again until we most definitely pay her attention. And then she’ll plant a kiss on our cheeks (and then nose, and then mouth, and then forehead) and ask us what it was like to be a kid when we were young. The ping pong goes back and forth between fierce and soft, loving and adamant. She loves so hard sometimes–especially when she’s pinning you down for another bedtime hug–it hurts.

Graceful. Mighty. In this moment, those words couldn’t be truer to describe her.

And I think she’s starting to like her name again, by the way. We just talked about it the other day, and I swear I saw her smile.

I’m so glad she is.

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