When people ask me to describe you, I often say you’re “tough, but tender”. I don’t remember when exactly I started thinking of you that way, but it was in the early days of your life. Some of this may be wrapped up with my memories of the extra time you had to spend in the hospital during those first weeks – being poked and prodded through various procedures. And you were born with a big brother, who has always been sweet with you, but hasn’t always been gentle. So maybe you’ve had to be tough. But there’s an essence in your core that exudes strength.
You’re a dare devil – our climber, we call you. You’re always trying to keep up with the big kids, often wiping out and then after a moment of crying, you pop up and announce, “I’m OK!” and run off. Your first animal sounds were these deep growls, and one of your first words was a deep, booming “NO!!” You know your own mind and God help anyone who gets in the way of what you want (it’s usually me, unfortunately).
But as much as you are tough, you are tender. You are such a sweet soul, stroking my face or your Dad’s, whispering “nice”, assembling your babies in their beds, under layers and layers of blankets. You’re our snuggler. In fact, the first couple weeks of your life, you wouldn’t let me put you down. So I held you or carried you in the baby carrier all the time, or risked blood-curdling screaming. And you’ve always been attuned to the emotions of others, not wanting anyone to be sad or upset. I remember once at the playground, you were only about 15 months, and a little boy about your age bumped his mouth and was crying. You went over by his side, tried to hug him, and only returned to playing once he did. You are a true sweetheart.
As I watch you sail through toddlerhood, your personality blossoming more every day, I realize that those two parts of your personality are still central, but I’ve been wrong in how I’ve been describing them. And it all comes down to a single word.
You’re not tough, but tender, you’re tough AND tender. Your strength and toughness is just as much a part of you as your tender sweetness is, and neither contradicts the other. You’re tough and tender and so many other things. You are a wildly, beautiful, complex soul.
I want you to grow up in a world where you can share and develop all your strengths and all sides of yourself. A world where you can cackle about crashing your monster trucks and in the next moment tend to your little herd of babies. Where you prance around in your batman shirt and cape paired with a frilly tutu, and then jump off something really high and scare the pants off your mom (I wouldn’t mind if you skipped that part…or at least, toned it down a bit).
My Valentine’s wish for you is that you can carry those pieces of yourself as you grow. That you don’t feel you have to hide or subvert any part of the tough, tender, wickedly smart and funny girl that you are today, sleeping in the room next to me. That you can become who you were born to be, and whatever you choose. You are you. And you are precious beyond belief.
I love you more than you can ever imagination.
Happy Valentine’s Day.