There are some people in my life who I think of as individuals who just radiate goodness. I’m not talking your average run-of-the-mill decent person; I’m actually surrounded by those quite regularly. I’m talking angels-on-earth goodness. They possess a kind of genuine sweetness that truly boggles my mind.
This handful of people – my best friend from senior year, a former coworker, two former students, Tessa’s softball coach, a couple of my fellow ball moms, and maybe a few others – are set apart from other “nice” people in that I have honestly never seen an ugly side to them. And I’ve looked. No one’s perfect, but they’re doing a great job of getting close. And because of this, I am fiercely protective of them. There is just something completely wrong in my mind with mistreating someone who is that kind of good. I cannot fathom a single justifiable reason why anyone would say or do anything to hurt them.
I think I admire these people so much because I do not see myself as a person who possesses this unique skill set. I am aloof and sarcastic. I have a tendency toward cynicism, and I will grumble. I will loudly speak up if I think I need to. I suppose some part of me wants to preserve the goodness of these people by guarding it. Maybe I think they need my mouthiness since they don’t have their own.
I consider it a quirk of my own personality that I feel this protective of them. My husband has noticed it too. After seeing someone, he’ll ask why I seem not to like them. My only explanation will be, “She was mean to Natalie once.” It really is silly, and the grudge isn’t a harmful or hateful one. But it goes to show you that in my mind, there never will be an excuse to be mean to someone like Natalie.
Joe and Talan display a different kind of quiet strength. It’s a combination of confidence and skin-thickness that allows them to take a lot before they act on their feelings. And because Talan took right after Joe, I always assumed Tessa would toe the line between assertive and aggressive just like I do. I’ve waited for her sassiness to bloom, you might say. Wrong. Imagine my surprise when I began to see traits of this radiant goodness in my own daughter – proof that it is not genetic, I guess? Or perhaps it’s a recessive gene? Tessa has this heart-piercing, butterfly-giving sweetness to her that shocks even the woman who gave birth to her. My dirty, hang-with-the-boys daughter would absolutely die before she knowingly hurt someone’s feelings. She would walk through fire to please you. She is saddened by the smallest things like news stories and TV character deaths. And even worse – she is truly devastated when someone treats her badly.
So this is great, right? You would think I’d be elated to see traits I admire so much manifested in my child. And I am. At seven years old, Tessa is my hero. She works hard at everything she does, and she loves unquestioningly. She is beautiful and smart and honest and fun and tough. I’m serious when I say that if I could be more like anyone else in this world it would be her. She is my best friend.
So what is the problem? Remember that fierce protectiveness I said I had for the truly sweet people in my life? Yeah, well multiply that times 1,000,000. A quote says, “Becoming a mother is forever allowing your heart to go walking around outside your body.” And that’s especially true here. Tessa’s sweetness and sensitivity makes difficult situations more complicated for her……and even MORE complicated for me.
In the past when someone was mean to Talan, I would find that I cared more than he did. He would either take it or take care of it, and it would end up resolved. Tessa, however, comes to me brokenhearted, and I respond with a broken heart also, but then I get MAD. A rough word from a teacher in the hallway might has well have been a slap in her face. Being left out of a classmate’s birthday plans has the potential to make her doubt she has any friends at all. A comment overheard from a relative can crush her spirit quickly. Don’t they know that she loves them? Don’t they know how TRULY GOOD she is? You cannot treat her like that! She’s one of THOSE people.
I suppose I am particularly perplexed by the irony of this situation. Being a mother makes a person protective anyway. I have mama-bear tendencies with Talan, but because of his Joe-like nature, things are just….easy. How did a parent like ME end up with a child like HER then? If I were like Joe and Talan – or even if I were like Tessa – I could just ignore the hurt or turn the other cheek. If Tessa were like Talan, meanness would roll off her back. If Tessa were like me, she’d fire back on her own. But Tessa is one of THOSE people – those sweet, kind, good people – so unbelievably undeserving of unkindness. And I am the fiercely protective guard of this goodness. And that is…..hard. And crazy. It makes me crazy.
If, 10 years later, I can still remember what so-and-so said to make my sweet friend cry, imagine the lifetime’s worth of taking-up-for that I’m going to have to do for my own sweet girl. It’s likely to be a full time job. But I am the only mom she has, and this odd combination of butterfly and bulldog can’t be a mistake. I – mouthy and sarcastic and cynical and maybe a little bit confrontational at times – was chosen to be her mom. This job is a privilege – one it seems I’m well prepared for. I am so thankful that I can be strong when she isn’t and crazy when the occasion calls for it. Tessa Jo Bratton will grow up with her goodness intact. Count on it. Challenge accepted.