I watch as my four-year-old daughter, hair bleached almost white by the sun, runs around the Salvation Army camp where we’re living for the summer. The shoes she’s wearing at breakfast have disappeared by lunch, no matter how many times we warn her about glass or bear excrement. She’s wild and fearless, a “free-range” child. She spends her days digging up crabs, jumping on the trampoline and leaping into the arms of counsellors and staff, trusting they will catch her. And they do.

Each evening, as the sun sets and campfire songs echo through the air, Adelaide and I begin our nightly routine. I put her in the bathtub, scrub the dirt from her body and attempt to tame her curly hair that goes in all different directions. As she goes to sleep, I “huggle” her close and call her my baby. She argues with me about being a baby.

Adelaide defies all logic about what my baby, my child, should be like. She insists on wearing a dress almost every day—the fluffier the better. I was the same as a child. My mom tells a story about a time I nearly went to daycare naked because I refused to wear a pair of pants she made me. Today, feminist me hates that my daughter loves princess dresses. I wish that she would at least wear something a little less sparkly in the sandpit. But I know this is an argument I will never win.

Adelaide is teaching me what it means to be powerful and brave. I’ve never been particularly timid, but Adelaide—she lives her life out there. I love her adventurous spirit, and it also scares me half to death. She says yes to so much. And she also says no. Loudly and over and over again, until you get the point.

Raising Adelaide is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. She is stretching us every day with her demands, her physical activity and her great big love. She is teaching us that:
  • She can swim on her own in the swimming pool.
  • She can run around camp with few injuries to her feet.
  • She can make friends with teens at camp, and bend them to her will.
  • She can get dirty. Oh man, can she!
  • She can build forts in the forest with her brother.
  • She is created in the image of God.
  • She is called.

I don’t know if she’ll be a pastor when she grows up—or a teacher, a doctor or a stunt double—but I do know she has taught me to be a better pastor. She has taught me to strike up a conversation with the person next to me in line. To smile more, at strangers and at people I know. To open up my heart a little wider to those around me. She has taught me that the risk is worth it.

I don’t know what my curly-haired, mud-princess will be. So far she’s told me she wants to be a hair cutter, a teacher or a robot. It might be the earliest inkling of a calling. But I do know she’s learning that the dreams the Holy Spirit has placed within her can take flight.

For now, I wish she would just wear her shoes for more than 10 minutes. I pray that her adventurous spirit will always be nurtured, that she will have incredible role models and that she will be ready to say yes to whatever God calls her to do.

Captain Kristen Jackson-Dockeray is the divisional youth secretary in the British Columbia Division.


On Sunday, September 3, 2017, Robert Dockeray said:

Adelaide was always a very special little girl as all children are May God Bless her life and open her heart to his leading


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