What I Want My Daughters To Know About America

It was 2 a.m.

We were laying in bed wide awake with tears rolling down our cheeks.

On the opposite end of the house were our three daughters, snuggled in their footy pajamas innocently sleeping soundly in their bedrooms with books scattered all over their floors. They were oblivious to the message the world just sent us about our family and its worth.

Yet four hours later, the sun had somehow risen.

“Mommy! Daddy! I’m awake!” announced our 3-year old.

With bloodshot, blurry eyes, my husband and I shuffled down the hallway and into their bedrooms for our daily hugs and “good morning” song.

We filled sippy cups with apple juice, poured oatmeal flakes and milk into neon-colored plastic bowls and punched up the microwave for a minute thirty.

Together, we finished our breakfast at the dining room table as if it was a normal morning.

Except in our hearts, we knew it wasn’t. It was the Wednesday after our fellow Americans sent a loud message of hate and intolerance and bigotry toward people like my daughters.

Here’s what I want them to know:

My dearest daughters...Your daddy and I love you.

We love your skin color. Your birth families. Your heritage. Even if America thinks less of you because the amount of melanin in your skin ― we know better.

We love the potential you have as young girls growing into intelligent young women. Your fierce personalities already shine, and your confidence radiates from your beautiful smiles. Even if America thinks less of your capabilities because of your gender ― we know better.

We love your abilities. And your genuine acceptance of others who have disabilities. Even if America thinks it’s okay to mock those who are different than us ― we know better.

We love your inquisitive minds about God and your faith. At the same time, we recognize you may choose to believe differently than us. We accept whatever religious or non-religious path you choose for your life. Even if America fears those who aren’t Christian ― we know better.

We love your pure ability to embrace others regardless of their sexual preferences or gender identities. We also recognize you or your friends may grow up in the LGBT community, and that’s okay. We love you for who you are, and always will. Even if America devalues people in same-sex relationships or those who identify as transgender ― we know better.

We love the friendships you pursue with those who are different than you, including those who speak English as a second language or whose families immigrated to this place we call our home. Your curiosity and willingness to learn and celebrate their cultures is admirable. Even if America wants to send them away and build walls instead of bridges ― we know better.

You ― my three beautiful daughters ― have a place here. In our home, at our table and in this country. You will ALWAYS have a place here.

Our neighbors, our brothers and sisters ― our America ― knows better. And only when we know better, are we able to do better.

To my friends and family of color: I love you. You belong here.

To my LGBTQ friends: I love you. You belong here.

To my Muslim friends and non-Christian friends: I love you. You belong here.

To my friends who immigrated or sought refuge in this country: I love you. You belong here.

While I am heartbroken by the silent compliance of those around us ― those too politically proud to denounce the misogyny, racism and bigotry in their affiliations ― I stand alongside those of you suffering today with love and solidarity. You belong here, and you are not alone.

Note: If the darkness is too much of a burden for you right now, please talk to someone. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free and confidential: 1-800-273-8255.

A version of this story first appeared on Follow Shelley on Facebook and Twitter.