If I could give you any gift in the world, sweet boy, it would be your innocence.
You came into the world over 3 weeks early, so small and frail. At a petite 6lbs even, you fit in your dad’s hand. Due to low body temperature, you were placed in a baby broiler to bring you warmth. Despite the steroid shots, your lungs were “premature,” as was your breathing pattern. We monitored your oxygen intake and heart rate by machine for months after you were born. I watched you sleep, equal parts fear and wonder running through my head.
The way I watch you navigate the world, so unencumbered by appearances, trends, and opinions of others, is magical. You love with your whole heart, and it shows. On the flip side of the coin, something that is upsetting, wrenches you to your core. You are fearless, but not reckless. Any chair is an opportunity to scale a mountain. You are curious, but not guarded. “What is this, mama?” is a question I have heard hundreds of thousands of times out of that sweet mouth of yours. You are a light to the world around you, but unaware of the darkness that lurks around many corners.
When you were a little baby, I protected you. Kissed boo-boos. Hugged you when you were scared. I shielded you from hunger, provided you a warm home in and out of my body, and helped you avoid the jagged edges of furniture. I taught you to know your ABCs and 123s. When asked, “How big is Graham?” you would excitedly throw your hands in the air. “Peekaboo” still brings a huge smile to your face, even now at almost 3 years old. Your imagination is unparalleled; a stack of markers becomes an umbrella handle, two pieces of bread crust become a bowl and spoon of medicine, administered by the careful Dr. Graham.
But now, my sweet boy, I must teach you how to protect yourself from other jagged edges. The trickier and abstract edges. The sharp sword of harsh words, exclusion, and ridicule. All of the traits that I love the most about you – your open heart, sensitivity, and creativity – will become ammunition for someone intent on causing you harm. Someone will try to dim your light in a vain attempt to brighten their own. The hurt experienced by someone else will be wrongfully transferred to you.
I don’t know how to straddle the line between protecting you and exposing you, safely, to the ill-will in this world. I wish I could wipe it away, like I wiped away the pureed peas from your mouth as a baby. Put edge protectors on it like we did the furniture. But that wouldn’t be doing you a service. That isn’t how you grow and develop into a strong, confident, and balanced human being.
So, my sweet baby boy, what will we do? All we can do – love you, value you, provide you with shelter (both physically and emotionally), and (hopefully) give you the tools you need to traverse the world on your own. Much like your premature lungs strengthened with practice – LOTS of practice – so, too, will your mental and emotional resilience.
If I could give you any gift in the world, sweet boy, it would be your innocence – but that isn’t possible. So instead, I will give you the gift of strength, love, and support, to the best of my ability.