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She is not my daughter.
She is not my sister.
And if friends are connected by common interests, activities, and an active choice to meet, we are not really friends either.
I can’t even say that I am a bonus mother for her. She already has two great parents to guide her through life.
Yet, if someone ever attempted to hurt her, I would become an uncontrollable beast.
If there is something bothering her, she knows she can find a trustworthy confidant in me.
If she meets a difficulty, she can count me in to help her overcome it the best I can.
I met her dad when she was 12—still a little girl, not so confident, and moved by strong emotions. Without any tools to manage these emotions, she was always in pain. One poor grade, a conflict with friends, or an unexpected situation would make her withdraw to her bedroom.
Mutism. It was her defense mechanism, to close herself off from the outer world, hoping that she could escape her terrifying inner world. Her dad spent hours trying to encourage her to express her feelings, to understand their roots, and to guide her into letting them go.
Watching this left me thinking about my own self at that age. I could recognize parts of my younger self in her, but I didn’t get that kind of support. And I was convinced that it was because of this that I was the strong, independent woman I am today.
After a year or two of observing her, I started to see how she was opening up and growing in emotional maturity and self-awareness. This father-daughter duo taught me about unconditional love, manifested through consistency, presence, and endless patience. They pushed me to question my core, to question my definition of being strong, of carrying and listening. They made me face and accept my vulnerability.
The love between a parent and a child is unique and fascinating—full of fears and worries about raising these little ones into fulfilled human beings. It is hard work and an intense, demanding journey full of self-doubt. It requires the bravery to question ourselves, our own upbringing, and to recognize our conditioning and programmed emotional reactions. It means making peace with the past so as not to project our wounds and fears, but to do our best to provide support to the specific challenges these youths are facing.
When this journey is done successfully, magic happens. What a reward to watch the caterpillar break out from the cocoon and turn into a butterfly, ready to take off with its own wings. The insecure, fearful, and overreactive child becomes a self-confident, self-aware young adult, brave enough to stand for what they believe will be their valuable contribution to society.
Today she is 16, a few centimeters taller, her heart and mind radiating much wider. The vulnerable little girl is giving space for the strong woman to grow and find her territory. The two are meeting and learning to walk together down the path of life. She takes full responsibility for her future, knowing she can turn to her parents whenever she needs support, advice, or clarity. She also knows to not take anyone’s word as gospel—to only take what she feels will serve her.
She is like my favorite Netflix series—with excitement and tenderness, I follow the episodes of her life, the development of her personality, the evolution of her relationships with her parents, grandparents, and friends. I witness her falls and her rises, and try to guess where they will take her next, while getting inspired on my own journey.
She is a mirror and an inspiration. She reminds me to never take anything for granted, to never be too sure, yet to always go for my dreams. She reinforces my sense of self and pushes me to follow my calling and my passion, to believe in my own valuable contribution to society.
She helps me reconnect with the vulnerable little girl in me, the one who still needs attention and care. She reminds me to not take things too seriously, to dare to play and expose myself, and to not care too much about what others may think.