Our first born, Tessa, came into the world taking the phrase “tiny but mighty” seriously. With a 6'5" daddy and average height mommy, it only made sense that she landed in the 6th percentile for length, right? She was (still is) so little yet so fierce.
Nothing stopped Tessa from rapidly checking off milestones. When she began walking at 9 months, no walking shoes fit her and sitting in a car seat, stroller, grocery cart, or any piece of containing equipment was NOT an option. Thankfully we had a footed winter suit that she could walk around in while running errands. With the hood up, Tessa looked like a pink teddy bear wobbling around the stores. Just in case anyone isn't sure, 9 month olds don't listen- btw this problem seems to stick around but the oblivious cuteness of the issue fades rapidly. Anyways, you can imagine the annoyance of trying to load a grocery cart full of baby friendly foods (that would inevitably become the dogs) while at the same time trying to corral the real life teddy. But no matter how frustrated I ever felt, it was without fail that I'd notice at least one face brighten up observing the strangely adorable sight. In those moments, the annoyance was replaced by joy as I watched/chased this little human-bear because, even if only for a few seconds, I imagined and hoped those smiling onlookers' hearts felt as mine did, happy.
That pink teddy bear quickly turned into a platinum curly headed 2 year old with crystal blue eyes, the mini girl-version of her daddy. Unlike her calm, happy-go-lucky daddy, she developed a personality comparable to that of a confused sour patch kid. Sometimes she was sour then sweet, other times sweet then sour. Some days we could never manage to get to the sweet, but, thankfully, there were more days that were full of sweetness. I've come to find out this is relatively normal, but, being those "goodie" kids all our lives (you're welcome parents), we weren't sure how to navigate this can't-get-enough-of but unpredictable sour patch child. We knew that we didn't want to change her unwavering determination, strong will, or ability to show emotions. Instead we wanted to help mold these amazing, when used the right way, traits the best we could. But how? Then it came to me in a moment that my sweet Tessa hugged me tight yelling "I WOB YOU!" While her mighty little arms squeezed, the image of our pre-sour-patch pink teddy bear popped into my head. I thought of all the smiles made possible by my daughter in those various stores. I thought about how my heart felt during those moments, how it felt during that moment her arms hugged me tight, and how it felt during a bagillion moments in between, happy. As she unhooked her strong little arms, I looked her in the eyes and proclaimed "I love you too!! you make my heart SO happy!" That's when the conversations began.
We started with happy hearts. Feeling our heart being happy and making other hearts feel happy. How my heart is happy when her heart feels happy. I would ask what made her heart happy. Dada, May-mie (Maysie, our pup), and him-mastics (gymnastics) were consistently her top three answers. We continued to proclaim “you make my heart SO happy!” during all those sweet moments.
Our conversation evolved as rapidly as that platinum two year old turned into an intelligent five year old princess/spy/vet/superhero. In three amazingly short years, we’ve talked about our hearts feeling all the emotions...sad, mad, excited, scared, brave, nervous, etc. We discussed how all of these are normal and OK to feel and for others to feel too. We talked about being kind to sad hearts, staying calm with mad hearts, and being friendly to lonely hearts. We emphasized always trying our best to make hearts happy and striving to end the day with a happy heart.
Tessa has 110% not lost her fierce determination, her will is stronger than ever, and her golden heart lives on her sleeve. Some days she takes the phrase "glass case of emotions" to a different level. As she is learning to handle these feelings, I'm learning how to appropriately embrace them. Keyword: learning...let's be honest, 75% of the time I should have just fed her an hour before and meltdown central may have been avoided. But throughout all of the emotional ups and downs (and hangry-ness), happy hearts have become a daily discussion. If Tessa's mean to her little sister, my heart's sad, she is sorry, we move on. When I hear her helping the same said sister, my heart feels happy, she is so proud, we celebrate. On the way to school or playdates, Tessa tells me she'll make hearts happy and her heart will feel happy too. Afterwards, the majority of the time her heart IS happy and she's made hearts happy about 98% of the time too. Can't win them all, right? But something's definitely sticking and hearts are (mostly) happy.
I'm sure I'll blink a couple more times and my pink teddy bear will be a grown woman. I hope that she and her equally determined sister will let their hearts feel all the feels. I dream they will end each day with a grateful and loving heart. And I pray that they'll grow knowing that they have the power to change the world, one happy heart at a time.