I wince when I catch someone staring at my youngest daughter, Willow. That’s because it hurts me. It physically hurts me. I imagine horrible things that a person might be thinking while looking at my daughter, and it causes my heart to break, hence the pain. I want to just yell back, “It’s only an extra chromosome!”
But I don’t.
Instead, I usually just snatch my littlest love up in my arms, snuggle her in tight, and whisper in her ear that I love her.
I hate it when people stare.
Yet, I do it all the time — stare at Willow. I just can’t take my eyes off of her. But I stare for different reasons.
For starters, Willow is beautiful — an absolute stunner. From her almond-shaped eyes to her little sausage toes. From her wavy brownish, blondish, not-sure-what-color-it-even-is hair to the tiny little mole on her ring finger. From her squishy little nose to her pudgy knees. Even the scars on her chest and stomach are gorgeous in my book. They tell the story of her life, after all.
Which brings me to another reason I find myself always staring at my daughter. I’m in awe of her bravery. Not even 4 years old and Willow has had heart surgery, bowel hernia surgery, neutropenia, and a cancer scare. Recent blood tests showed she has celiac disease. What a brave knight, yet I don’t see any armor! How does she do it? She’s so tiny, yet so giant. Look at her.
Look at her!
Seriously. It’s okay this time. It’s okay to stare this time. I want you to look at my daughter the way I do. I want you to see what I see.
Yes, I know you can see Down syndrome. And yes, I know it makes Willow different. But can you see how amazingly stunning different can be?
Do you see how you can feel her smile?
Do you see how she dances even when there isn’t any music?
Do you see how she pushes forward when life keeps trying to drag her backwards?
Do you see how she laughs with her entire body?
Do you see how she loves? Fully and completely.
Do you see how she lives while many of us just go through the motions?
Do you see what I see?
If you do, I’ll be able to tell in the way you’re staring at my daughter. I’ll know. I can always spot the difference. That is, when I choose to take my eyes off of my beautiful daughter.
This post originally appeared on The Mighty.