When my daughter was four years old she stood in front of my husband and me and declared she was going to save the world.
We had been watching a lot of super hero movies and I was envisioning her wearing a cape and spandex tights when I asked her just how she planned on saving the planet.
Ken looked thoughtful for a moment and muttered something nonsensical and then ran off to her bedroom. I laughed at her antics as I adjusted my hugely pregnant body on the small couch I was resting on and made a joke to my husband that she must be looking for a pillow case to wrap around her shoulders as a cape.
Moments later, Ken emerged from her bedroom but she wasn't wearing a pillow case cape and she wasn't pretending to be a superhero.
She was dressed as a doctor, and she held a stethoscope to my swollen stomach to listen to 'her' baby.
"I'm gonna be a doctor and save all the babies," she proudly declared.
At age four, Ken was precocious and curious and everything a four year old should be. I didn't know where her sudden interest in the medical field had come from and I certainly didn't take her seriously, but I played along and let her 'doctor' me until she had to go to bed.
That night I went into labour with my third son, her brother, who was born medically fragile and extremely disabled. He needed all the doctoring he could get and then some.
It was like my daughter knew what none of us even expected.
Ken, the night her brother was born.
Ken isn't four anymore. She is now sixteen years old and every bit as precocious and curious as she was all those years ago.
At the age of 16, she is a mixture of the child she still is and the adult she is growing into. As she straddles the fence between childhood and adulthood, I marvel every day at the person she is rapidly becoming.
She still loves superheroes and she sleeps in a bed filled with teddy bears but her baby teeth have all fallen out and her wisdom teeth are starting to grow in. Instead of driving toy cars around in the sandbox with her brother, she drives her brother around in her car. She steals my shoes when she thinks I'm not paying attention and she puts on her makeup with a finer touch than I have ever mastered.
And yet, one thing hasn't changed since she was four years old.
She still wants to save the world.
She no longer has a plastic stethoscope and she doesn't pretend to vaccinate my belly with her plastic syringe every chance she gets. Instead, she studies hard and interns at the local hospital in the pediatric unit.
She knows the importance of vaccinations and how immunizations save lives.
Our entire family does. My grandmother had Polio and lived in an iron lung for more than six months when my mom was just a baby. We all grew up witnessing first hand the ravages of Polio on one of our favourite people in the world.
At 16 years old, my daughter knows the importance of medical care, and how a simple vaccine can save a life. I no longer wonder where her interest in medicine comes from. And when she tells me she wants to save the world and become a doctor, I take her seriously.
At 16 years old, I see my daughter's future ahead of her, filled with promise and hope, and I see the person I know she is destined to become.
I believe she can help save the world because she has already saved mine, with every hug and kiss she's given me.
This post is inspired by Shot@Life, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation that educates, connects and empowers the championing of vaccines as one of the most cost effective ways to save the lives of children in the world’s hardest to reach places.
Every last comment on this counts -- even just a 'hello' or 'thanks!' -- so help us spread the word, and help stop the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.