Being an afternoon child is a big responsibility, huh?
That’s what Luca told me yesterday morning, as he emptied an entire can of hairspray onto his head…all in one spot.
Don’t worry, Mommy, I closed my eyes when I sprayed it.
* * *
It’s been almost five years since I had him.
I closed my eyes for what seemed like a split second and, when I opened them, I was sending my sweet boy off to school for his first day as a primary student.
That was over a year ago.
* * *
I closed my eyes again and, this time, when I opened them, I was sending him off to school, lunchbox in tow, as a big-shot all day child.
This day was a special one.
In his words, he’s no longer one of the little kids.
Staying at school for three more hours each day may not seem like that big of a deal, in the grand scheme of things, but it symbolizes just how fast he’s growing up.
When did my baby become old enough to be away from me for seven whole hours?
This child, the one I’m probably way too protective of, is the most extraordinary soul I have ever met.
A part of me wants to put him in a bubble, and save him from the real world. A world full of hate, where one can no longer feel safe crossing the finish line.
Thankfully, a bigger part of me understands that this would do him more harm than good. It’s important he have a world all his own – one he doesn’t have to share with me, his father, two dogs, one cat, a fish, and four very horny frogs.
And, although I know that loosening my grip of his tiny hand is the right thing to do, it doesn’t make it any less bittersweet.
I’m especially protective of Luca, because I see so much of myself in him. Often enough to make me wonder if I’m merely projecting my feelings and fears onto him – something that wouldn’t be fair at all.
But, then he’ll say something I understand all too well and any doubts I had, that he’s not cut from the same cloth as me, are extinguished.
His tender nature is exemplified again and again in the most ordinary of moments.
Like, during a recent road-trip.
A Texas-sized truck flew passed us on the highway. Going at least 80 mph, it had a dog in it’s bed that was holding on for dear life. He didn’t look to be enjoying the wild ride at all. I cringed, but I bit my tongue, not saying aloud what I was thinking.
Hey asshole, how would YOU like to be thrown in the back of a truck that’s speeding dangerously down a congested highway on a holiday weekend?
Instead, I went with, “Oh, look at that cute doggie!”
Luca fell silent for the next few miles. Sitting in his car-seat, he wore a cute shark shirt and his trademark thinking face.
“Mommy, is that dog in the truck going to be okay? I think he’s probably scared.”
Of course, he said everything I’d been thinking.
Of course he did.
He always does.
This kid walks around all day long with his feelers sticking straight out, for anyone and everything to grab hold of.
His constant worry about others, especially those that are weak and powerless, makes my heart ache. He’s not even five, and way too little to worry about such big things. He’s got his whole life to make himself sick with the sadness that surrounds us.
Despite my worry, I wouldn’t change a thing. Because, I love this about him, just slightly more than I hate it for him.
But, I know how heavy it can be to walk around with an extra sensitivity chip – it is such a beautiful burden.
My friend Katya would say he has a bad case of The Lastimas. Which, basically means he doesn’t just feel for people and animals, he feels with them.
I know from experience how exhausting this can be.
Most people feel sad when they see a lifeless animal in the middle of the street. But, they’re able to move passed it fairly quickly; Their reactions, offering no more than the situation warrants.
And, then there’s me.
When I see a dog-turned-roadkill it can ruin the better part of my day, if not all of it, popping up again and again and again in my head….
Did it suffer?
Was it scared?
Did it lay there all by itself, confused and dying, until the end finally came?
I am the Queen of Emotional Overreaction.
Not all that long ago, I told you guys a story about a slug. And, while my tone was humorous, my concern for that damn snug wasn’t exaggerated in the least.
As my friends sat around laughing, I couldn’t stop wondering if the headless little blob was in pain?
(Google has differing opinions on slug-pain.)
I’m not saying this to come off as some kind of Mother Teresa. Rather, I’m acknowledging the fact that my reactions to things teeter dangerously between normal, everyday sensitivity and straight-up insanity.
When I was younger, I’d even catch myself ascribing feelings to inanimate objects.
It’s funny, though.
When I see all these things in myself, I call them crazy. Yet, when I see them in Luca, I call them beautiful.
In him, I see a beautiful caring soul who feels way too much for his tiny heart to hold.
On the flip side, would I rather have a son that steps on a slug, rather than a son that worries about a stepped-on slug?
Not a chance.
Nevertheless, it still pains me to know that his kind of empathy comes with a price. One that is beautifully painful and oh-so-heavy.
I lose sleep at night, praying I’ve passed on only my best parts to him.
Please don’t let him hate himself like I did.
Please don’t let him worry so much about what others think.
Please let him be confident.
* * *
All weekend, I worried that he wasn’t ready to be a full-day student.
Is it too soon?
Am I pushing him?
But, when I picked him up yesterday from cloud nine it was evident, by the huge smile on his face, that my worry was for not.
That’s when I realized something big.
Although, Luca undoubtedly has many parts of me, he is not me.
He’s his own person, traveling down his own path, and making his own unique mark in the world.
And, he’s so much braver than I’ve ever been, in all of my 35 years.
(The above photo has been altered to respect the privacy of a non-blogger’s offspring.)
I’m so proud of you, my sweet afternoon child. Keep being the sensitive soul you are. Because, no matter how hard it may be at times, it’s a beautiful way to live.
I will not be closing my eyes anymore.
* * *
My thoughts, love, and deepest condolences are with Boston, and all those affected by yesterday’s tragedy.