A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – No. 33 “Empathy”

Dear daughter,

Yesterday you won an award at school for empathy, and I am not surprised at all. You are so considerate of others and you absorb everything around you. Even before you went to school, your empathy was noticed at daycare. When another kid was struggling, you drew them pictures to cheer them up. Everyone at the daycare thought it was the sweetest thing.

You even pick me flowers when I’m sad.

Being able to show compassion and understanding is a skill not everyone possesses that will serve you well throughout your life.

There’s one thing I’ve noticed about your upbringing that really differs from mine years ago. As a child, my focus was achievement. Good grades. Winning competitions. Excelling in extracurriculars, etc. It was always a huge blow when I didn’t measure up. As an adult, I now see there are more important things and I’m still trying to work past my “achievement” mindset.

But you’re different. You focus on character. Daddy and I try not to push you too hard into activities. We want you to get good grades but we’re not going to be angry if you don’t. As far as I’m concerned, the award you received for empathy is a huge honor – bigger than test scores or a ribbon on field day – and I couldn’t be prouder.

I don’t think there was an award for empathy when I was growing up, but there should have been.

You have a talent for connecting with others and I want to support and encourage you as much as possible but my biggest fear is that the world will harden you and turn you cold. I see you feel other’s pain and that’s a heavy weight to carry.

Hopefully, that’s way down the road yet. Continue being that sweet and caring first grader for as long as possible.

Daughter, don’t ever forget you have a beautiful heart and mind. You learn so much from the people you meet and they will learn from you as well. You have so much to offer the world.

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