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Dear daughter,

Thank you for teaching me what joy is.

Thank you for waking up laughing and babbling, no matter how dark the night was.

Thank you for that sweet smile you give me when you see me, half-awake and lying in bed in the morning.

Thank you for the grin that lights up the room when your dad comes home from work.

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Some days are rough. When you’re crying and I don’t know what you want, or when my arms are sore from holding you, or when I can’t feel my legs after chasing you around the apartment for hours. But even on those days, I look through my phone after you go to bed to relive every moment. I stare at those captivating eyes, and it’s almost as if I can hear the infectious laughter coming from your half-open mouth.

And I wonder, every single day, how on earth so much joy could fit into such a tiny person.

From the moment you started smiling, you’ve shown such innocent, carefree, and unbridled joy. Your curiosity for the world around you, your openness to every new experience, and your excitement for all that life has to offer never fails to amaze me. Even on days when you’re sick, you smile between coughing fits and look up at me with contentment while snuggling up against me.

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Joy is difficult to explain. The dictionary says that it’s “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness,” but that doesn’t seem to do the word justice. Dear daughter, you’ve shown me that joy isn’t meant to be described in words. It’s meant to be seen in the sparkle of your eyes and felt from the intensity of your hugs.

Never have I been so confident that I know what joy is.

Was I ever as joyful as you are? Was your dad? If we ever were, we don’t remember it. It seems hard to imagine that the two of us could have made you. Somehow you are untainted by our cynicism, our hurt, our worries. It pains me to think that we will never be able to shield you completely from the world. One day you will see the not-so-beautiful parts of life. But I pray that you will never let go of your joy.

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I had heard of parents learning from their children, but I never imagined that I would learn so much from you in just your first year of life. I knew I would learn how to change diapers, and how to soothe you, and how to work in short chunks while you napped. But I never expected to learn something so profound. I never thought I would get to catch a glimpse of the world through fresh eyes and share your excitement for life.

Thank you for reminding me of the beauty that I had forgotten.

Dear daughter, thank you for teaching me what joy is.

May the darkness of the world never dim the light within you.

Ashley Leung

I am a developmental psychologist, calligrapher, and mom. My husband and I have one daughter (and a cat!).

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