To The Gentle Giant From A Mom Who Sometimes Gets It Wrong

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I have an unsuspecting guest blogger today.  It’s my eleven year-old son, Taylor, or as I like to call him, the Gentle Giant.  Gentle because he was born with a heart much more complex and intricate than most, and giant because, well, he’s really, really tall.

Taylor has always been sensitive to the ways of the world…more synchronized to the tune of his own feelings and the vibrations and chords of those around him than anyone I know.  Even though our parts come from the same place, they’re constructed in an entirely different way.  What seems like a glancing blow to me hits him directly; a sucker punch to the gut with a sting that lingers and burns.

At first and for a long time, I wanted to change my son.  Make him tougher, more resilient, and in my mind’s eye, strong.  No caring parent wants a child to hurt.

When he was a little boy, all I could see through my one-dimensional, cracked crystal ball were children teasing him.  I imagined him crying while I tried to clean up the tiny slivers of his psyche, unable to reconnect them in a way that would cause less pain.  With a vascular organ as transparent as his, I was afraid he’d bleed in ways that would require emotional surgery, a method of repair I was too ill-equipped to attempt.

Over the years, some of my fears have come to light.  He’s mourned things I don’t understand, and lamented situations that wouldn’t cause me a second thought.  And yes, he’s had his feelings bruised by others who are built of vital pieces that are shaped a little differently than his.  I’m embarrassed to admit that one of those “others” unintentionally includes me.

But he’s also surprised me in ways I could have never predicted.   As a kid on the cusp of tweendom, he now feels compelled to hide his free-flowing tears, but he’s always the first to crack a joke.  Because his feelings run like fissures through the ground, he’ll defend anyone being bullied, unconditionally and without a second thought.  I’ve seen him jump to an unknown child’s defense and am amazed by his courage.  Even for the right reasons, I didn’t have the self-confidence at his age to make waves or challenge the status quo.

It took me awhile to understand that the element of my son’s personality I wanted to alter is the exact one that makes him so beautifully unique.  I imagine that the children who cry easily become the teenagers who feel deeply and the adults who have the potential to heal the world.

With the best of intentions we often damage our children.  In our haste to mold them into the people we wish we were, we sometimes hurt rather than help.  Although I’m ashamed to admit it, I see now that by trying to make my son stronger, I actually injured parts I intended to support.  He had strengths all along that I failed to recognize, and it was never Taylor who needed to change.  It was me.

There is absolutely no genetic precedent in either my husband’s or my family for a child who is predicted to grow to be about 6’5”.  The only way to explain his size is that it takes a large body to hold such a huge heart.  His height is a defense mechanism in a way, a physical vessel to guard against any emotions that penetrate the protective cover, and cradle something too valuable to lose.

I’m not always proud of myself, but I am unconditionally and forever proud of my son.

Tree by Taylor Chadwick

Still. Still as a rock.

High above all others.

Lonely, alone.

Freezing as the temperature drops.

Reaching out for something to hold onto.

But nothing is there.

The arms stretch out further, and that means there is still something to hold onto.

Something to fight for.

Something to believe in.

Something to live for.

The sun is melting all the snow.

Warming it.

There is always hope.

 

Image from Flickr


46 responses »

  1. I know exactly what you’re talking about here. I tend to do this with my 13 yr old daughter who has a very odd sense of style. For the last 3 yrs i’ve been trying to get her out of the Emo/scene look…with not much luck. I have tried to “push” other things on her and get her to see why looking that way isnt accepted or appropriate. But I have come to realize she is just as unique as I am and she is beautiful just as she is. Although I do hope she grows out of this look… Just saying, lol.

  2. Like your son, I feel things that many folk scarcely give a thought. Tell him there is another gentle soul like him, many of us. I have found some among writers.

    My best to Taylor.

    M

  3. Much love and good vibes to you both. It is so important that we have people like Taylor in the world, and people like you who appreciate them. It fills me with hope that at his age he still strives for the ‘bigger’ things and is not embarassed by what seems to be a wonderful sense of enlightenment and inner calm that often jarrs with the world we live in.

    • Thanks Darcy. I was in Boulder a couple of years ago at a coffee shop and started a conversation with this very enlightened, new agey woman. She said that Taylor’s generation would be the healers of the world. I know it sounds a little out there, but it’s kind of nice to think it could be true.

  4. Stacie your words are both comforting and convicting! I have my own gentle giant I am trying to navigate and I get it wrong so often. Thank you for sharing your heart and thank you for sharing Taylor’s poetry. Looks like the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree 🙂

    • Your comment means a lot, Jane. I know what a great mother you are. Nobody taught me how to navigate the waters of emotion when I took my birthing classes at Northwestern Memorial in Chicago. Come to think of it, slapping a diaper on a nasty doll didn’t work so well in the real world either. =)

  5. Oh, is there ever a room big enough to hold all of our parental regrets and wishes for re-do?? I applaud your ability to change your perspective, and perhaps your method of supporting, Taylor. Every day I hope my daughter isn’t accumulating too big a pile named, “Things my mom did to me that I will never do to my kid.” I have explained to her many times that I will disappoint her, as she will me (and we have both done many times already); it is the nature of all relationships. We are limited. The important thing is to be accepting of the limitations rather than trying to disguise them as something else, or deny them. Big, lovable boy.

  6. You have all rights to be a very proud mama, wow! What a beautiful and profound poem your son wrote, I love it! Thanks for sharing it with the world.. 🙂

  7. You know, having never read your son’s poetry and knowing what a dazzling talent you are as a writer, I would have assumed that experience alone would render you the better wordsmith. If your son hasn’t yet reached the pinnacle of eloquence and emotional expression that you have, he’s awfully darn close. Not hard to see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in your family. Thanks for sharing this awe-inspiring portrait of your wonderfully sensitive and thoughtful son – and his equally-impressive poetry. Love ya’, bestie!

  8. So gorgeous! Thanks for writing something I think any mom out there can identify with. Doesn’t it hurt horribly when our kids feel pain? I love that he’s channeling his sensitive nature into poetry, too. So cool. One of my writer friends who lives nearby has a 17-year-old son who is winning national poetry competitions. Just goes to show we never know how a child’s personality will open up doors.

  9. arrraaaaaaggggaaaaahhhh, that’s the sound i make when someone writes something beautiful and i can barely take it. this is my favorite line: “The only way to explain his size is that it takes a large body to hold such a huge heart.” It’s so good. So good. Me thinks you two are just right for each other and you’re not so steel-shelled as you think, (I don’t think!) which is a good thing.

  10. I just saw this post on Jane’s page and read the whole article before I realized who wrote it. So strange because I happened upon your wedding gift cookie cutters Tuesday night and thought of you and your family-specifically Taylor. Such a sensitive, smart and intuitive young guy. I remember him asking me about my family and my life. He used to want to hang out and have a real conversation (past bedtime of course :). I thought it was really cool and uncharacteristic for a child his age to show interest in others
    . I loved reading this and miss you guys.

  11. this is a great post. i relate to it so well as my daughter, only two, seems to be cut from that same super-sensitive cloth, and it is scary. i find myself nervously anticipating her future interactions with peers and wondering if i will help of hurt the situation further. this post is very good and it makes me take heart a bit, about the good things to come that i will witness, and it makes me feel that much more determined not to take the easy route and call her shy to deflect an awkward situation, or to roll my eyes over her head at another parent. also, it is so odd to find that your kids are just people, similar in a lot of ways, but also individuals and just people like anyone else. i believe strongly in the idea that your children don’t come to you, but through you, into the world. this was a great post. thanks for keepin’ it ril.

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