It started with the thick, bushy eyebrows we shared.
I was maybe 4 years old when I first recall getting bullied for them -- my cousins called me names because of how hairy I was. Because of this I was allowed to tweeze my unibrow and shave my legs and arms at a young age. And while my parents didn't necessarily want me to have to place so much value on the opinions of others, I also was fortunate to have been blessed with a support system that ultimately wanted me to be happy and comfortable in my own skin.
My dad and I would give each other a funny look from time to time, scrunching up our foreheads at each other like we were pouting. This was his way of making it a point to encourage me to be proud of that 'flaw' of mine. I also have a crooked smile similar to his, which the family teased me about. Any physical characteristic that I was obviously insecure about, he would make sure that I knew they were exactly what made me me and no one could take that away.
I can honestly say that I have never doubted my sense of worth because of my relationship with my dad, and his relationship with my mom, his queen. Their example of love taught me to accept nothing less than the respect of a princess.
I appreciate my dad's approach to parenthood.
One thing my dad always made sure to do in the household was to keep an honest, open conversation about life experiences. Early on he broke down the barriers between a typical authority figure and child -- instead, I viewed my father as a sort of wise guiding force who allowed me to make my own mistakes and experiences along my personal journey. Yes, there were moments of scolding discipline, something any child should succumb to whenever they do something bad. Still, my dad made each one into a valuable learning lesson. My parents humbly admitted to my sister and I that we didn't come with instructions, and this was just part of the process for everyone involved. My father's ability to remain vulnerable as a human being rather than pretend to have all the answers definitely lowered the pressure I sometimes placed on myself.
After he helped me see my own value, I demanded that same treatment everywhere I went.
My dad taught me to stand up for whatever it was that I believed in, no matter how unpopular my decision was. I questioned a lot, I expected a lot; whether it was in the classroom or in a relationship, he helped me understand from an early age how I deserved to be treated by others. I can honestly say that I have never doubted my sense of worth because of my relationship with my dad, and his relationship with my mom, his queen. Their example of love taught me to accept nothing less than the respect of a princess.
Above all, my dad taught me how to let go of fear and just love.
From all of the cultural gems he shared with me in music, books, film, food, art, and travel, to his fearless yet practical approach to everyday life, I truly admire the way my dad views life and the people in it. If he had 5 bucks in his pocket and we walked by a homeless man sitting on the ground, by the time we'd get to the car his pocket would be empty.
That is just who my dad, Adrian Velazquez, is.If I can only hope to live with an open, smiling heart even half the size of his, I would be pretty proud of myself in this lifetime.