Last night I put one of Hazel's swimsuits on her for the first time, squeezing her broad thighs and roly poly almost-six-month body into the stretchy fabric. We're ten days away from vacation - time to make sure her suits are good to go. They are.
I get these moments now and then of being utterly overwhelmed with happiness that I have a little girl. Seeing her in her very first swimsuit last night very nearly broke me. There she was smiling at me in an old-fashioned print with a sweet little skirt and a high neck and all that skin. It was too much. She has an entire life ahead of her to explore her relationship with swimwear (and if I have any power at all, I hope that relationship will be happier than many girls'), but this first chapter is ours together.
I feel that way about so many firsts she's having these days. I rub her feet - perfectly smooth and un-calloused, since she's never actually walked on them, and I wonder where they'll take her. I see her light up with a grin at someone and think about all the people who'll inspire that smile in her lifetime, and all the smiles she'll inspire in turn. I see her brain whirling and hear her sounds coming, and wonder how many grand ideas will come out of that mouth, how many people will turn to listen to what she has to say.
Because she's my girl, I predict she'll have lots of opinions and quite a lot to say. I want her to be whatever she wants to be, but to be it proudly, and I know she'll have every opportunity in the world to live out that motto. Other girls aren't so lucky. And maybe because just the sight of my little one in a swimsuit makes me teary, maybe because I'm filled with every bit of hope in the world for my little girl right now, the horror of 300 kidnapped girls in Nigeria is especially appalling.
There must have been so much hope in their eyes, sitting in their classrooms and learning about the world. Their families knew that going to school was the best way to channel their hopes into a better life, the best way to rise to the challenge presented by their dreams. If you believe, like I do, that making the women of this world happy is the key to achieving peace anywhere and everywhere, then you know it all begins in a classroom. Of course the classroom is the battleground.
As Uzodinma Iweala wrote in the Washington Post this morning: "The kidnapping of these girls is the crudest attempt to destabilize our country. It is a cowardly act by lazy minds who lack the ability or desire to address a pluralistic nation as the democratic process demands, through the spoken or written word." Kidnapping, he explains, is the worst kind of tool in a young democracy where hope is the currency: "[Kidnapping] turns this hope into a liability that can paralyze."
Paralyzing the future and extinguishing the light in the eyes of 300 girls will have a ricochet effect within Nigeria that I can't even begin to comprehend. The horror of it is both why a "hashtag movement" is so easily prompted, and also why it could never be enough. I know it's not enough, but I say #BringBackOurGirls anyway. I see Hazel's sparkling eyes and her smile and those sweet rolls exposed by her new swimsuit, and I think about little girls everywhere. I know it's not enough, but I say it again, and again, and again: #BringBackOurGirls.