No one has a perfect relationship with their parents. We all fight with them and are embarrassed by them when we're kids, and then, generally, when we grow up we learn to appreciate them more and realize that they do what they do because they love us.
Richie Anne Castillo had a complicated relationship with her dad growing up. When she was a kid, she was bullied because her dad has Down Syndrome. Now, for his 50th birthday, Richie is sharing everything she has learned to love and appreciate about her dad in a viral Facebook post.
"Dear, Dad," Richie writes. "Today marks a very special and very miraculous moment of your life. You turn 50 today and I am so blessed that you continue to live such a long and beautiful life. Doctors are still amazed by it!"
She writes that even though he doesn't have Facebook, she wants "the whole world to know" how proud she is that he's her dad. "I want the whole world to know how beautiful you are inside and out," she writes.
"Dad, it took me so many years before I gathered enough courage to face everyone because not all may know the whole truth because it is quite confusing. Back in grade school, I would be picked on and bullied because they said you were different. As a kid I didn’t see you as different, I saw you as my dad. I didn’t understand why they were making fun of me and calling me abnormal.
"I understood this later on and it made me a coward. But you deserve more than the coward daughter that I am. You deserve love, understanding, patience and acceptance as any individual with Down syndrome should. Here I am composing a birthday greeting to you because I’ve never done such a thing. You deserve so much more."
She writes that he is "the strongest and the bravest human being" she knows. He's been through lots of surgeries and has lived with certain limitations, but he's never been afraid and he doesn't complain. "You always put a smile on your face after a long day at the dialysis center, or after a hypoglycemic episode," she writes.
"You are the bravest because you have been through so much and you never, not even once been afraid. I cannot imagine putting myself in your shoes. I have seen you at your worst, when you would break down and say that you are tired. Hearing those words 'Kapoy na. (I’m tired)' or 'Sakit kaayo. (It really hurts)' made me cry for days and I couldn’t bear going back to the hospital anymore."
He's been through a lot in his life and has experienced a lot of pain, and Richie feels terrible that she was an "absent daughter" for many of his struggles. "If there is one thing I regret, it is hiding you from my life because I'm still the same little kid who was afraid of getting bullied," she writes.
"But I love you more than you could ever know, Dad, and I am inspired by you always. I’m inspired at how much you love the Lord and I came to love the Lord myself and its amazing at how incredibly intelligent you are."
Richie continues, "Everyone adores you and you know that. You could always put a smile and a laugh on everyone’s faces. You annoy people a lot too but we love you anyways. I understand that you have good days and bad days (your bad days are our bad days as well haha). You can be mean at times and you push everyone away, including me. But that’s just you and it’s okay. It’s okay to be different. "
"I could go on and on talking about you but it would be too long," she writes. "Happy 50th birthday, Daddy! Thanks for always calling me your one and only baby girl because I always will be. I am strong and brave because of you and I love you so much, dad. I think I’m big enough now to defend myself from the bullies. Lots of love, your daughter."
Richie's post has over 250,000 reactions, 77,000 shares, and thousands of comments expressing love and support and understanding. No parent-kid relationship is perfect all the time, but if there's a foundation of love, that's all that matters.