Dear Ivy: Strong

My Dear Ivy,

In these letters, I’m asking a lot of you. I’m asking you to do things that sometimes seem contradictory – like holding onto your self while giving generously in your love and connection with others. I’m asking you to do better – to be better – than I’ve been in some of these same areas myself.

It may sound, at times, like I’m asking the impossible.

But these things are not impossible – though sometimes they are really, really hard.

In short, what I’m asking is for you to be strong. Strong enough to do what some believe to be impossible – what you yourself might think impossible at times.

Let me tell you a secret, though: You are already a strong person. I know this to be true, even at a year and a half of age.

Let me tell you a few things about the Ivy I know.

  • She is incredibly observant; she catches everything.
  • She sees (and mimics) the tiniest, most minute details of what she observes – the things other people don’t even see in themselves until they see themselves mirrored in her.
  • She knows what she wants – again in very specific detail – and is not at all hesitant to let those around her know it.
  • She is incredibly focused; she doesn’t get easily distracted from what she wants to concentrate on.
  • She is unafraid to try something she hasn’t accomplished before. Even something she knows is likely to fail. Even something that has failed the last hundred times she tried it.
  • She is not afraid to laugh at herself. She’s a ham, and she knows it.
  • She loves spending time with others, but doesn’t easily allow them to redirect her away from what she wants, into what they want for her.
  • She is not afraid to set her own course. As much as she enjoys playing with her big brother and sister if she’s interested in what they’re doing, when she’s not, she’s perfectly capable of wandering off to some remote corner of the house on some adventure on her own.

Those characteristics: the powers of observation to see what others miss; the self-awareness to know what you want even when those around you don’t understand; the determination to pursue it even in the face of distraction, or criticism, or failure; and the self-assurance to set your own path and walk it, without taking yourself too seriously as you do so . . . those are some of the key ingredients that make a strong person. And they also happen to be some of the key ingredients that make you, you.

You’ll need them, if you decide to take the advice in these letters to heart. Because there will be distractions, and critics, and failures to contend with your whole life. There will be voices speaking into your life trying to turn you to the course they would have you pursue, rather than the one you have set for yourself. There will be people who take your already-evident loving and generous and helpful nature as weakness, and who try to exploit it for their own benefit.

And from within will come the temptation to self-doubt. The questions about whether some decision you’ve made is the right one. The hopeful worry that things will work out, somehow, even if it’s not. I’ve found that sometimes my most vocal critics are the ones inside my own head. Sometimes those voices can be (and for me, have been) the most debilitating ones out there. Persist through the voices inside you, as well as the ones around you.

In these letters so far, I’ve tried to give you some tools to help with doing that – tools for making decisions, setting priorities, and creating boundaries. Throughout your life you’ll gather more of such tools, both from me and from elsewhere. But the heart of your strength – the key things that will make you capable of walking seemingly impossible paths, should you choose them; the fortitude to take your critics (and your self-criticism) seriously without being paralyzed by them – that part is something I can’t give you.

Because that part is you.

So when I tell you to be strong, I’m not telling you to put on something external, like a piece of armor. I’m asking you to draw from something internal – something that is already a deep part of who yo are.

When I say “Be strong,” it’s another way of saying, “Be yourself.”

You’ve got this.

I love you.


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