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.
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.
There is always hope.