To my sweetest love,

Before I held you in my arms, I knew you. I loved you deeply. I vowed to move mountains to protect you. Protecting her child is the fiercest instinct a mother has, and yet, in an imperfect world, it is also the most challenging.

When you were still tiny, I had such power against the world and its impacts on you. And it never crossed my mind that my strength to shield you would vanish so quickly. It never occurred to me it would feel like us against the world so soon. When I promised to protect you, there were so many things I didn’t know.

I didn’t know you would struggle so much with your emotions.

I didn’t know you’d be a natural loner.

I didn’t know you’d be so wonderfully sensitive.

I didn’t know you’d be incredibly anxious.

I didn’t know you’d struggle with focus and attention.

I didn’t know you’d get so excited around others that you’d jumble the words you so easily say at home.

I didn’t know you’d seek constant sensory input, struggling to maintain “nice hands.”

I didn’t know you’d be chaotic and wild.

I didn’t know you’d be different.

Different is incredible. Different is a beautiful thing. I absolutely LOVE different. Being different than everyone else makes you extraordinary.

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But different becomes painful when people don’t understand you–when they don’t know how, when they don’t even try. The challenge is they’re only seeing the smallest part of the big picture. The big picture is a mosaic—no doubt, the most exceptional kind of picture–but seeing just a small piece of a mosaic means they think they’re seeing a mess. And, at least for right now, that small piece is often the only part you’ll show them.

As mere human beings, we are very quick to judge, and we tend to push back against other people and things we don’t understand. From the children who know you for ten minutes and exclaim you’re just a “bad boy,” to the grown-ups who write you off without ever seeing your endless potential. The world will be full of people from whom I cannot protect you because the heart is such a precarious thing. It can never be fully protected. This is especially true of a heart so big and so sensitive.

Of course, a major part of protecting you is teaching you right from wrong. Needing an outlet for energy, roughhousing, craving something to quench your senses–none of that gives you a pass to harm others. I watch you with fear that you will kick or squeeze or shove or pull, my own anxiety in high gear. I watch your face when you realize you did something you didn’t mean to do. I see your reaction when you acknowledge there was a person on the other side of your boundary-pushing. I know your lack of control impacts other people, often other people whose mothers are desperately trying to protect them, too. I’m thankful you’re starting to understand.

I wish others could see the progress you’re making.

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There are so many things I wish they could see. They have no idea we routinely work on discipline, and you work hard. They don’t know I’ve read the books. They can’t see how often I pray, how often we pray together. They don’t hear our earnest talks. They don’t sit with you in time-out. They don’t know how spectacular and loving you are. They can’t see the tenderness of your heart. They don’t know your anxiety and lack of focus contribute to you having a tough time. They don’t know you are genuinely trying. They praise you when you are good, but they don’t want to try to understand you when you struggle.

It must be so hard to bear big burdens on tiny shoulders. It must feel so heavy when even adults can’t figure you out. It must be such a challenge to try so hard, every single day, and to still feel like people are frustrated with you so much of the time. I see it, my sweetheart. And I’m so sorry I can’t fix it.

I am insanely blessed. I get to see your gargantuan heart. I get to see your sweet, thoughtful nature. I’m on the receiving end of so many of your hugs and snuggles. I hear “I love you” a dozen times each day. I hear your consistent politeness. My eyes tear up when you listen well or accomplish something new. I feel your hands when they’re gentle. I sit with you when you worry. I marvel at your cleverness and wit, and my mind is boggled by your intelligence. I see your face light up and hear your voice quiet when we start our prayers to Jesus. I see your emotional strength already. I know you.

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You are different, and you are a masterpiece.

You are the most magical thing in the world to me. I will continue to teach you, to shape you, to watch you become an amazing little human. You will learn and grow, and your uniqueness will one day open windows where there could have been walls. It will make your life an adventure, for wandering on a sometimes-rocky terrain is more exciting than traveling a well-worn road. I will protect you with all my might along the way. And when you’re ready, you’ll soar.

Previously published on the author’s blog

Cassie Gottula Shaw

I'm Cassie, and I'm a writer, mama, Jesus enthusiast, cliche coffee drinker, and lover of all the stories. I believe in the power of faith and empathy, radical inclusivity, and the magic and beauty of ordinary days. I'm inspired every day by the firm belief that we owe something to each otherlove and human connection. When I'm not writing, you can find me running from dinosaurs, building castles, pursuing joy, or watching the sun rise over the fields of Nebraska (coffee in hand) where my husband and I are raising two spectacular children. For more stories, visit my Facebook page, From the House on a Hill with Cassie Gottula Shaw; Instagram, Cassie Gottula Shaw; and the blog,