By Kimberly Zapata
My daughter is three years old, but she is already just like me. (Like, exactly like me.) She is short and slim and curly, golden ringlets frame her face. She is a free-spirit and a bookworm. A natural born storyteller and a performer. And she is emotional and empathetic. She is forgiving, loving and compassionate, but she also has a short fuse.
She becomes frustrated, angry, and enraged when things don’t go right — when things do not go “as planned” or her way.
Of course, I am proud to have a child that is so smart, sweet, driven, independent and strong-willed, but I also worry about her because I know how my trusting heart has led it to be broken. I know how my determination and “never say no” attitude drove me nuts, and I know how empathy can be hurtful. My sensitivity to others has literally made me sick.
So, before you get older, little one, I want to say this to you.
I knew you were something special from the moment you entered this world. From the moment your wet and wriggling body was placed in my arms. You were calm and quiet, warm and affectionate, and you were happy. So, so happy.
But as you grew, new traits emerged, and before long you became a strong-willed infant and a tenacious toddler. Before I knew it, you grew into a fiercely independent child: my smart and fiercely independent child, and I love that about you. In fact, I love that you are headstrong and self-reliant. I love that you are determined, persistent, and focused, even though you can be a bit stubborn. Even though your independence makes you a bit dogged and perverse.
I love that you are generous and accepting, compassionate, humble, and kind.
I love that you understand the power of words like “please” and “thank you” and “I am sorry.” I love that you are forgiving and empathetic, that you are the type of girl who would give someone the shirt off of your own proverbial back, and that you worry about the well-being of complete strangers when you hear them yelling or crying. You ask me “what’s wrong” and “why are they sad” and then suggest they may just need a hug. Maybe you can give them a hug.
I love that you are energetic and enthusiastic — that you can be crafting one minute and running the next — and I love that thoughts and ideas flow through your brain quicker than you can articulate. You are so excited, you cannot always find the right words.
I love that you stop to appreciate the little things, like leaves on the ground, ants in the dirt, and the clouds in the sky. (How you love the clouds in the sky.)
I love that you — quite literally — take time to stop and smell the flowers.
And I love that you are loving because when you love, you do so without judgment or discrimination. Without preference or bias, and instead, you love with your entire heart. You offer every bit of yourself and your being and freely give of your mind, body, and soul.
And while I am proud to have a daughter who is “just like me,” I am also terrified because I know some of the hurts you may face, the obstacles you may have to overcome, and the struggles you will have to endure, and that saddens. It worries me.
In fact, I worry your willpower will drive people away. I worry you will isolate yourself with your independence, and I worry that your perfectionist nature will eventually harm you. I worry you will become your own worst enemy and critic.
I worry others will fail to appreciate your kind heart and empathy. I worry wearing your heart on your sleeve will cause it to break, and I worry your blind faith, openness, and generosity will be your Achilles heel. It will allow others to hurt you and take advantage of you, causing you unnecessary anguish and heartache.
And I worry that all of this will eventually cause you to give up and pull back. I worry you’ll become cold and callous and your heart will harden. You will build up walls to hide and “protect” yourself.
Unfortunately, I do not know how to help you. I do not know if I can protect you, and I do not have any answers. Nothing I say will keep you shielded and your character safe, and I know that. All I do have is hope. Hope in you. Hope in your heart. And hope in your future.
So stay strong, my sweet one. Stay fearless, and keep humanity at the heart of who you are. Keep laughing and loving and saying “I’m sorry,” even when it hurts. Even when it is hard. Because no matter what the world throws your way, I will be there to hold you. To listen to you. To carry you, and to support you no matter what you do. No matter where life takes you.
© 2017 Kimberly Zapata, as first published on Little Things