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Dance like no one is watching

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My beautiful girl,

You’re only 15 months old, but I’ve never known another person so full of life, so unapologetic, so unabashed. This, my little button, is why I love you. I have more reasons to love you than there are stars in the sky, and this is one of them.

One day you will not live so carefree. You will tug on your clothes with a self-conscious frown. You will blush when someone tells you to settle down, keep it down, to speak up, listen up, to be more of one thing, to be less of another. You will look for approval, and you will adjust your behaviour over and over in order to receive that approval. One day, you will be like the rest of us. You will apologize for who you are, and you will wish you had been made just a little bit different.

I’m telling you now, while you’re still young, not to feel ashamed.

Your energy – the endless running and climbing that wears me out – will give you the stamina and enthusiasm to do whatever you put your mind to. One day someone might call you wild or hyper because of this. But this energy means you are alive. When you spin and run and stomp and clap, you feel joy. I can see it in your face. You will be able to use that energy to fulfill any passions you have.

Your independence – the way you squirm out of my arms to run free in a busy mall – can be exhausting as a mom. Sometimes I follow you closely, re-directing you from danger as you kick and protest, not wanting to be held back or told what to do. Sometimes I follow further back, watching you lumber ahead of me, curious to see how far you will go before turning back to make sure I’m still there. That independence may one day be seen as too bold, too un-feminine, too pushy. But it will give you the confidence to try new things and be a trail-blazer.

Your curiosity – that curiosity that empties our Tupperware drawer, leaves our flowers plucked and eaten, has you always wanting to know how and what and “can I?” – will leave some people exasperated. But I watch you standing pensively over your stroller trying to make the straps click together and realize  this curiosity is the start to a lifetime of learning. Do not be afraid to ask questions and do not be afraid to try things yourself (I can almost hear you saying, “mom, I can do it!”). Raise that little hand in class. Question everything, question me, question the rules we put in place. I will never answer “just because” to any of your questions.

You are resolute, willful and headstrong. There’s no mistaking your wants and needs. Grownups will enourage you to be accommodating, placid, flexible. But I love that you are willful. Your drive is inspiring, your enthusiasm honest. This will lead you to become a strong, self-assured woman who knows what she wants, and has the drive to get there.

You are quick to anger and quick to cry. But also quick to laugh. This means you are passionate. As you grow, others might call you sensitive. But don’t be ashamed of your emotions, and don’t ever feel like you should hide them. Your passion is infectious.

You are not afraid to try things other kids are too afraid to try. You climb on furniture that’s too tall, too easy to tip over or fall out of. And saying no or re-directing you only makes you return with greater resolve. This lack of fear, this need to challenge yourself and climb to new heights, may get you into trouble. But it will allow you the confidence and drive to try thrilling and wonderful things many of us are much to afraid to try. It will keep you from living a life of what-ifs. I hope you are always this bold!

You see the world with wonder. When you grow up, someone may see this as naivety. But if you can maintain that sense of awe, if you can keep finding joy in small things – a kitten rubbing against you, a really good blueberry, watching someone you love walk in the door – you will live a happier, fuller life than most.

You dance with such enthusiasm and joy that it makes everyone get up to dance with you. You clap, you stomp, you twirl and twerk. You laugh and shout. I love you when you dance. As you grow, don’t let the eyes of other people keep you paralyzed on the sidelines. You were born dancing, and you brighten the room when you do it.

You are friendly, warm and giving. Always offering your treats, your bunny, your hugs. And you see the good in everyone. I know this because you smile and wave at everyone you see, perfect strangers, people who may actually be kind of rotten and mean. Most of us grow up and become guarded, wary, distrustful. It’s okay to be “that girl” who is always so bubbly, so positive. If that bothers other people, it’s their problem. Stay sunny, my love. Stay giving. There aren’t enough people like that in the world.

You are beautiful. One day you won’t think that of yourself, and these words – coming from your mom – won’t mean a thing. You will only care what other people think. But there is no one in the world who loves you more than I do. And isn’t that what truly matters? What the person who loves you MOST in the world thinks of you? You. Are. Beautiful.

You inspire and teach me. Yes, you, at 15 months. You have taught me to see the world through your eyes, and to find wonder and delight in things that would otherwise escape my notice. You are re-introducing me to the magic of stories and make-believe. You are showing me that it’s liberating to be free of self-conscious worry and doubt. You are inspiring me to let go of things I can’t control, to smile more, to find peace and joy in what I have. You are teaching me that I have everything I could ever need.

I love that you came into the world so you, with a spirit already so defined, so vibrant, so unique. Your goofy, loving enthusiasm fills a room, even though are so very small. I hope that follows you throughout your life. I hope that you never feel crippled by the judgment and ridicule of others, that you can dismiss petty sneers and keep going.

I hope that the spirited little girl I know and love now becomes the spirited, independent, self-assured and beautiful woman you are destined to become.

Do not be ashamed. Do not hold back.

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