When I began this blog, my then seven-year-old son did not want me to write about him. It’s been okay to do so when big things have happened, like his injury last summer. Recently, he has overheard me running certain things that I have written about his siblings by them and had a change of heart. (A friend quipped that he had decided “he wanted to get in on some of the attention.”) The truth is there have been many times that he has inspired me to write because he’s an inspiring sort of kid, and I have choked back the words because he had reservations.
Several years ago when I was spending a lot of time with the youth at our church, one of them took a shine to this son, then five years old. She dubbed him “Little Man” and it stuck, fitting him perfectly. He recently said to me that he doesn’t feel like a child, but like an adult, say seventeen. (I didn’t tell him that seventeen wasn’t quite adult according to most folks, and I did tell him not to forget to be eight and to fully enjoy being a kid.)
Little Man and his brother love one another, but their relationship is often conflicted. However, Little Man absolutely adores his fifteen-year-old (going on sixteen) sister. (She’s fond of him, too, even though he is occasionally insufferable, as little brothers can be.) She is the arbiter of all things cool and if there is one thing that boy is, it’s cool. (His sister, not so much.) One day I caught him looking himself over in the full-length mirror, checking himself from behind even. He had on skinny jeans from The Gap with holes in the knees and his sister’s old black “chucks,” which he wore until he couldn’t wedge his feet into them anymore. He had his man purse slung over his shoulder and his hair was spiked. (He’s probably the only boy in the third grade who uses “product.”)
“I look more like a teen than a kid,” he said.
“Except for those missing teeth,” I replied. He laughed. (They have since grown in, too big like they are when one is eight.)
He laughs easily. He and his sister are blessed with similar sunny dispositions, but he is more social than either of his siblings. Someone suggested that he might be the mayor of the third grade, the way he knuckle-bumps and “what up, dudes” down the hallway.
We had a bike accident a few years ago and he decided at that moment that he was going to stick to his skateboard indefinitely; he has. (I’m hoping we’ll give the bicycle one more try next summer.) He has good elbow and knee pads, a helmet, and a nice skateboard with custom trucks—a bribe for staying off wheels and keeping his brain from knocking around while it healed from last summer’s injury.
He’s smart, too, gifted, but he is less interested in defining himself by it and less inclined to work hard than his siblings.
He is an empathic soul, an empathic soul with a poet’s heart. He has been writing songs and doodling since he was old enough to sing and to pick up a pencil.
He has a strong sense of justice, but is always open to looking at things through other’s points of view. He is extraordinarily compassionate. If someone is hurt, he is quick to offer comfort. If someone is blue he is inclined to offer a kind word. His compassion is inspiring and it gives me hope for the future, especially when I read the news, especially when I see how much hatred and suffering there is in the world. It fills me with purpose to know that I am raising one who will not knowingly cause another to suffer.
Beneath all the “boy,” the gun play, the rough housing, the crazy hill-climbing rambunctiousness, is a scared kid. There are a lot of things for young boys to be afraid of. Perhaps there always have been. Boys become men and men have always disproportionately carried the burdens of politics and wars. (That’s certainly changing.) These aren’t just silly kid-fears—living inside the Beltway, we have a family evacuation plan (in the event that we are somehow evacuated separately). Additionally, there are the special things that give this one boy grief, like his father. All these things push him to maturity long before he is ready.
He is anxious to become a teen and a man, but I don’t think he should hurry. I think he should take his time, think things through and enjoy that little sliver of life that is childhood. I think he should laugh and cry and laugh some more.
I think you already know what this piece has been about. Still, here it is: I love that child, the one often called, “Little Man.”
I read this piece to him. “That is a great post, Mom,” he said smiling.