This Child, I say, we share a unique bond. My child, when I first enfold your tender body in my arms, I gaze with complete intrigue into your soft eyes and ask, “who are you, stranger from within myself!”
So new that your breaths are still counted in number… you and I are sacredly wrapped together in that vulnerable timeless place. I see you- so completely unlike me- yet you are mine, beloved! Your world has inexplicably and deafeningly morphed around you. As you grapple with your first sensations as a being out-in-the-world, my eyes soak you in.
Intensity of every sensory change cradles you in profound silence for a day, but no longer. Silence yields to the volume of your personality. As you grow, I muse in awe and pride at how unlike me you are. You wish to experience the world all the way through the tips of your fingers and as fast as you can go, as strong as you can heave, as wildly you can pounce and as far as you can reach and jump and touch and taste and explore to the depths, and risk and fearlessly dive right in and undaunted, no holds barred, as loud as you can yell and as big as you can mess and as unhesitatingly you give from your heart. Impulsive. Fearless. Confident. Never withholding. Trying everything. You are an outpouring of action. You have an exuberant curiosity and electricity for life that surges out of every seam.
Child so unlike me, may I never forget to remind you of greatness in store for the largess of your personality. God’s distinct purposes are intricately designed into your now-unpredictable impulses. When your gift looks like a mess or a hurt or another broken or disassembled thing, God remind me into patience. May we never feel “I can’t do anything rights” and “why can’t you justs.” Let us step into the “we’re learning” and “let’s figure out how it works,” and “let’s make it rights” and “isn’t that interesting,” and “using our strengths for good.” Someday these cleanable messes, ouchies that heal, and every forgettable broken thing will roll themselves into a giant shimmering ball of your effervescent mind. You, understanding the world, knowing how it works, and possessing a delicate sense for all kinds of material limitations and possibilities. You, reining in the ways of the world with a mastery, ALL to create something new, useful, and stunning. The dubious contraptions of today serving, by degrees, as prototypes to a fullness of potential master works. Child so unlike me, may you never think you ought to be more like me. My love is with you completely today, as always, and entirely the way you are, my exciting child. I love you, my beloved stranger from within.
Ours is a domain of boys. I watch while they play, fascinated to tease out the varied personalities. Contrasts are drawn in sharper relief by their close proximity. In these fond relationships I notice some sons are easier to bond with than others. The sons more like me, the ones I understand and relate to, the ones who “get” me in return; in our shared resemblance it is easy to enjoy companionship.
One of my sons came born with the lion’s share of those snips and snails and puppy dog tails, as antique nursery-rhyme anecdotes would profess. This son and I – at times – have difficulties forging a bond. Understanding and appreciating this son is hard work sometimes. Finding common ground takes time and intent. Don’t let this fool you into thinking I have favorites. They say, you know, that the things worked hardest for in life … these are things yielding greater appreciation, in the end. I appreciate our bond, this stand-out child – more often, by necessity. I admire him in a way reminiscent of opposing magnets attracting, as the cliché goes.
I work hardest and spend the longest trying to unravel exactly how this boy is wired. In my efforts to correct and teach, I reveal my lack of understanding for what motivates him. My son’s ways are not like mine. Having taught him to speak, I find still his language differs. It is like opening a panel to the view of a circuit board, a mess of jumbled wires. This is a system unfamiliar to me, indeed. His inner apparatus is like a timer on a faulty device; prone to flying sparks, spontaneous outbursts of smoke and flame, or aimless movements. Circuits need to be rerouted, plugs unplugged, bundled, then correctly reconnected. Clearly I am out of my element. If I study the layout long enough I might decipher where everything is meant to fit. It is like seeing a tangled tapestry of wires and unweaving them, knowing that, in short order, I will need to reroute and re-plug them with ONLY the necessary adjustments. Reset this ticking device out of its tendency toward random destruction. Realign it, with all its self-contained pieces intact, into function mode. This tune-up completed, I can see a discreet and awe-inspiring entity that is, in fact, finely tuned, designed intricately for a specific purpose. Drawn out attention towards understanding and reaching him works the wires of our connection together into a greater-than-expected complexity and depth. This new understanding for my child is a bond made via discovery. This child whom I relate to with the greatest challenge also evokes a sense of pause and concentration that leads to a slow but accelerating marvel.
To an outsider it may appear that our bond is tied up in discord. Paradoxically, to hear now the depth of hard-fought affection, one might conclude that it tends too far to the reverse. This stark difference between myself and him is the inspiration for his own special expression, above. Is it fair among the brothers, is it equal, you might ask. Ask any parent with multiple children to describe it; is their love for each equal? The question is nonsensical. Our love for each is complicated. More importantly, it is boundless. Gaining a subsequent child only stretches a parent’s experience in a boundless capacity for love.
I see the forces of emergent rivalry at play among these brothers. They have no innate notion of a parent’s equal-but-distinct affections. I sooth their fears and insecurities that construct these rivaling tendencies, hoping to avoid their pain, if only they can understand that the need for rivalry is foundless. I study my sons with a fascination for their differences. In response, I take time to define how they are unique. I take time to express to each in turn how our relationships are one-of-a-kind. I avidly hope that they will feel their parents’ unconditional, unique, nontransferable, irreplaceable, inexpressible love. Each bond is a precious entity of its very own, compelling and untouchable by those of their beloved brothers. May they each know that one son could never be replaced by another. May they know, each, how completely they belong. Perhaps, in time, they will view one another with deep affection, in the light of this kind of singular, individual love.