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Kristin Armstrong Headshot

Amazing Grace

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I have twin daughters, 12-years-old. They are an ongoing experiment in the laboratory of life for me, having never had a sister. I marvel at their ability to yank hair, rake skin with "the Claw," scream pressure point insults, then fall asleep together like spoons. They can gauge each other's weak spots in twin warfare under the relative protection of Homeland Insecurity, yet their strong suits become shields for each other in foreign territory. They are not identical outside, and even less so inside.

For example, Isabelle cares very much about how people see her and what people think and Grace does not give a flying F. She never has. It's the strangest phenomenon, and I've carefully watched it over time, wondering where it came from and praying to God that it won't go away. I could only dream of being such a freebird in my own skin.

"Why do people get so freaked out about life, mom?" Grace asked me recently, smacking the gum she's not supposed to be chewing with her braces. "I mean seriously, everyone gets so worked up about homework, high school, and going to college. I mean for sure I'll go someplace good, but like, it doesn't have to be like Harvard or Vail." Knowing her, she probably will get a full ride to Vail.

She has other graceisms. Like in response to her extremely athletic sister, "I am in shape too. Circles are shapes." Or how about, "I am a winner... sometimes I win." What I could do with an ounce of that.

She is prone to making the occasional inappropriate remark, to which I quickly try and adjust my guffaw to a motherly huff of consternation. Our code is a staccato-whisper, "Grace! Plaid! Chapel!" as I try to remind her that she now goes to private school and needs to clean up her act. Then as soon as possible I duck away to find a place to crack up and text all my friends whatever she just said.

I've asked her before what it's like to be Grace, though it's as difficult for Grace to ponder freedom as it is for a fish to explain the sea. It just is? I just move in it? This is how I breathe? I told her I had this idea for A Day of Grace, where I would try out what it might be like to be her. She loved this idea, but then looked at me skeptically, like a hairdresser might when you show a magazine photo of the haircut you want. (Um, I'm pretty sure this won't look the same, but okay...)

She explained that in order to have a Day of Grace, I needed to do a lot more cartwheels and handstands than I currently do. I needed to stop trying so hard to be on time and just chill, because we'll get there either way. I needed to sing louder, and eat more chips and queso and less salad. I needed to have more sleepovers and less sleep. I needed to wear more colors, not just gray, and trade in my "brown" Louis Vuitton bag for something much better, like Vera Bradley. I needed to always get my hair wet in the pool. I needed blue or neon pink toenail polish, not dirt color. I needed to stop caring if the car was clean and turn the music up. I needed to not straighten my hair because it just gets bent again anyway. I needed to have pancakes for dinner more often, and less green beans. I needed to just say what I think without worrying if it comes out good. I needed to play more, like all the time. And no matter what happens, find the funny part and laugh.

It's not lost on me that my beloved daughter is aptly named.

Grace is defined as effortless poise, beauty and charm; it is also described as the unmerited favor and blessing of God. In my personal lexicon, giving and receiving grace is also about letting others -- and myself -- off the hook. Maybe that's why my girl turns cartwheels in grocery stores, speaks her mind without fuss or filter, and lives and loves off the hook and in full color.

Grace is the thing we say before meals, but maybe we need to say it not only over our food, but also over each other. Maybe I can manage a Day of Grace, and then another one after that, and another, until I amass so much grace that I'm as comfortable and free in my own skin as my daughter is in hers.

Grace is, after all, amazing.