When I found out that I was having a girl, I had a very clear image in my mind of who she would be and was sure that choosing the right name for her was essential to making that happen. She would be a leader—someone who knew who she was, who would make the world what she wanted it to be, and who would not compromise on what she believed in. She’d be spunky. I drove straight to Walmart after my doctor’s appointment and picked up a book that promised me 100,000 names. The right one had to be in it. I spent two nights with a bowl of popcorn highlighting, circling, and making lists. I gave other names a chance, but there was always one name that embodied everything that I was looking for. Riley.
Now, I must admit, when I was envisioning this perfect little bundle of girl power, I did not think about the steps that it might take to mold these characteristics or how those traits she would need to have would manifest in a baby, or a toddler, or a small child. But when my tiny eight-month-old first sat in the middle of the room smiling at me while screaming with such force and pitch that I was sure the neighbors would call social services, I knew. While ideal in an adult, those innate strong-willed traits that she possesses would be the makings of a humbling parenting adventure.
Presently, she is three. The terrible twos (which lasted eighteen months, not a year) have come and gone. Life twisted and turned the way that it always does, and we now call a mid-sized Indiana town home. I began a new job, which required Riley to begin daycare for the first time. She had been lucky enough to stay home with family previously. Besides the natural fear of leaving her with teachers I didn’t know very well, I also worried about how she would get along with the other kids. After all, her first interaction with another kid included her running full speed toward him, screeching, and then standing next to him and awkwardly laying her head on his shoulder. Neither the little boy nor his mother knew what to say, and the experience left me slightly concerned. My worries were soothed when one day she took the hand of another little girl and they walked into the daycare together. Her name was Story. I knew her mother only as another daycare mother and a coworker of mine. Again, life twisted and turned the way that it does. Now, Story and Riley fight and laugh like sisters and that coworker of mine is my best friend and confidant. And also the woman who wrote the book that named Riley.