Rewind to about five years ago in my life. I had little to no experience with kids. I took babysitting classes back in high school and even became a "certified" babysitter (I have no idea where that certificate even is anymore), but I still didn't have any hands on experience with children.
Then, I met *Gianna. She wasn't even a year old, and she made me so nervous. I had no idea how to play with her, talk to her or hang out with her. I also had no idea what words she knew, what games she knew, what she was allowed to do, or what she wasn't allowed to do; it was a very nerve racking experience.
As time passed, I became very close to Gianna. Every time I would walk through the door, she'd scream my name, grab my hand, and drag me off to play with her. It took some time, but eventually I felt 100 percent comfortable with her. We'd do all sorts of silly things, like put her toy frog in her kitchen-set microwave and say, "What?! How'd he get in there?!" or put her baby doll on top of the drapes of her crib and say, "Woah! Did she move all by herself? Go get her!" and she became one of the people I was most excited to see. When we took her out, she'd always cling to my side and refuse to hold anyone else's hand. I even remember one year on Easter, we took her out in the back and blew bubbles for a good two hours. Small things would make her so happy, and she'd always make us laugh.
Fast forward a little while, and soon Gianna had a little sister, *Bella.
When Bella was born, I wasn't nervous because I knew how to handle little girls after spending so much time with Gianna. I remember the day that she was born. We all rushed up to the hospital room, excited to see everyone. We spent our time wrapped around Bella and Gianna's mother, laughing at funny stories and just being happy overall.
Soon after Bella's birth, we found out that she wasn't breathing on her own, and she couldn't move on her own. After worry took us over for a few days, we discovered that Bella had a rare genetic disorder, which would affect her for the rest of her life.
I watched Bella grow, despite her slowed growth rate. I watched her learn, sat in on her therapies, and babysat regularly for a little while. I learned so much about her and learned how to entertain her while stimulating her senses, and teaching her as well. One of her therapists even told me, "She's never this active. You're having such a good effect on her! Don't ever leave!" and it made my day.
I watched Bella and Gianna grow from toddlers into little people. I watched their personalities develop, and learned how to make the both of them laugh. And somehow, they both always managed to make me laugh.
It's crazy how much these girls have taught me. Throughout all of the time I have spent with them, I learned not only about them, but so much about myself. They've taught me how to have some light-hearted fun and how to love. They inspired me. I was so proud of everything that the two of them did; Gianna with her soccer and her dance, Bella with her every day accomplishments; doing things that we never knew for sure she'd be able to do.
I watched the things that Bella learned from her therapies, and the way she continuously impressed and amazed everyone. I watched the way that both girls learned from me when we played our little games. I watched their faces light up when they figured something out.
Words cannot express how grateful I am that I got to spend so much time with these little girls. From Bella screaming my name repeatedly when she saw me, to Gianna never letting me move too far from her, always hogging me to herself and never allowing anyone else to do anything with her. It's incredible, how two little girls taught me more about myself in four years, than I learned about myself on my own.
My girls: I miss the two of you every day and I love you both. Thank you for inspiring me to help others. Thank you for teaching me about life, and inspiring me every day.
* Name change due to privacy.