As a little kid, I quickly earned the title of Playground Defender – which I get totally makes me sound like a mini Buffy, but if you’re imagining some bouncer-to-be or heavy weight champ, I’m gonna stop you right there. I was puny. I was the 2nd smallest in my grade with sticks for legs and blunt, uneven bangs that always clung together in a sweaty mess. Nothing about me screamed, “Ooff, better watch out for that one!”
…But don’t let that fool you. Better believe I was every bully’s worst nightmare. I was a pocket-sized Robin Hood, swooping in out of nowhere to help the poor and downtrodden. I’d appear with my tiny fists in the air as a warning, yelling to leave whoever was being picked on alone. I roamed the halls like an elementary school sheriff. No kid was going to be stuffed in a garbage can, not on my watch!
No one really knows for sure how it started. My parents said I was always feisty and full of sass. But when my kindergarten best friend, the painfully shy Kara, started routinely getting teased by one of the more aggressive boys in class, I wasn’t having it. I’d demand that he stop. I’d use my words, like everyone suggested. And when that didn’t work, I channeled all my miniature rage and smacked the boy.
People soon learned if you were going to mess with the people I loved, I was going to make them wish they didn’t. Small or not, I could pack a punch. Or just verbally annihilate you. Didn’t matter the punishment that was doled out, people knew they didn’t want to incur the wrath of the Defender.
Sure, I (thankfully) graduated past the physical and now, as a fully-formed adult, I’m not likely to pull at your hair for being mean to my friend or other loved one. I’m not going to smack you with a library book that splits your lip open and lands you in the emergency room for stitches (though Split Lip Boy stopped making fun of kids after that incident sooooo). But that doesn’t mean that protective instinct doesn’t still exist inside me. The Defender is part of me. A very real, instinctual part.
I know I can’t save you from this world.
Rationally, I know that. No matter how hard I try, something out there is going to hurt. You’ll have your moments of disappointment, discouragement, when you feel like everything is stacked against you. I can’t stop those things from happening. My love isn’t enough to keep you forever safe.
But that doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop wanting to try. I love you, so that means I’m going to do what I can to help you, to encourage you. The Defender has your back. Even when you feel alone, I will be in the background. You just have to look in my direction. I’ll still be there. I’ll still be doing what I can to protect you.
I will always want to protect you. Because I love you. Because you weaseled your damn way into my heart and there’s no turning back now. There’s no way I can be anything other than devotedly yours.