When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Little boy, big life
We are now into the fourth week of the school year, and every weekday morning my youngest boy still wraps his arms around me with a gentle fierceness and misty eyes, getting just one more good-bye from his mom before he enters the heavy doors at the last possible moment. He puts on a brave face at school and truly enjoys many of the activities and people there, but behind those deep brown eyes of his, he is missing his family and worrying about all of the "what ifs" he can imagine in his busy mind. This has always been my Will, a little boy with enormous feelings and an understanding of the world that is beyond his young years of life. What an honour and a challenge it is to be raising such an extraordinary boy.
From the time he was an infant, Matt and I knew that Will was going to push us to develop more parenting tools than we ever imagined existed. He was an infrequent sleeper, keeping us up for hours in the middle of the night, wanting a warm body to comfort him or someone to engage him with an interesting activity. He was also a very sensitive baby who screamed at the slightest bit of overstimulation. These traits have stayed with Will through the years. He is still up before 6 am most days, accomplishing something big before the rest of us have even opened our eyes, and new people and situations are still a challenge for him -- he prefers the comfort of sameness. The world often becomes too much for Will; extra noise, excitement, fear, disappointment, anticipation, happiness, or frustration usually leads to strong outbursts of feeling, either jubilant or despairing. On so many occasions over the years I have felt compelled to justify Will's emotions and behaviours to the people with whom he shares this part of himself, to somehow apologetically explain them away and make people see a different side of him. It has been difficult, however, to explain something I could never fully understand myself.
In the last while, Will has blossomed into quite an articulate speaker, and I have finally caught a glimpse of the deep thoughts and feelings behind his passionate outpourings. I have come to realize he has a beautiful gift, one that needs to be appreciated, gently directed, and nurtured to see its full potential.
Will might complain loudly and incessantly about perceived unfairness in day-to-day life at home, but he also kindly stands up for friends at school who are being picked on, and shows real empathy for those people and creatures who are suffering in the world at large, often wondering what he can do to help them. This boy who never lets his own or others' mistakes go unnoticed is the same boy who keenly observes the smallest details in nature, and marvels at the beauty of a pretty pattern on a rock, or the intricate, perfect construction of a fallen bird's nest. He is the boy who remarks thoughtfully on a summer's day that a spider is lucky because "it has a way bigger world than we do" as he notices it moving in so many more directions than humans are capable of moving.
Will's busy mind never rests; he wonders constantly about how things work, invents incredible stories and objects, lies in his bed at night worrying about grown-up things like people he loves dying too soon, and figures out complex math problems in his head while staring off into space at the dinner table. Sometimes Will's curiosity makes us weary, but I realize now that his endless questions come from a compelling desire to make sense of concepts most adults can't fully understand: God, natural disasters, the vastness of the universe.
Will's big feelings have led him to weep at the sight of a fly trapped in a web outside our kitchen window, but they also mean he loves his family with every fibre of his self, and there is nothing better than being wrapped in a tight embrace by his little arms; in those moments I feel certain that he will love me like that forever. In the midst of all of his crying and protesting and worrying and thinking and challenging, he is a sweet little boy who tells me his striped shirt reminds him of rainbows and me and makes him happy when he's having a sad day. He is one of the most genuine people I have ever met.
There have been many days as Will's mom that I have wanted to pull my hair out in frustration, and many others where I've been moved to tears by his sensitive thoughtfulness. What I understand now is that Will is like a finely tuned instrument, resonating beautifully inside at just the slightest touch, and pouring forth feelings that play like music, sometimes loud and jarring, sometimes soft and infinitely lovely. This must be a delightful experience for him in part, but it must also be overwhelming to be a six year old boy and have such powerful activity within. He knows himself that he is different from many others he knows, as he often asks sadly, "Why am I the only one who cares so much about this?" I believe, though, that some day Will is going to grow into his complex thoughts and feelings; he will own them proudly and use them to make a difference in the world. He's already trying so hard to do just this. In the meantime, I will continue to embrace him reassuringly every morning, searching deep within myself for the patience and the understanding he needs to get there, and being deeply grateful for the privelege of having him in my life.