Handle with Care

I sometimes take a picture of you because you’re just so adorable and amazing and beautiful. And sometimes I catch a hint of fragility in what the camera catches. Other times I see huge heaping mounds of it. Giant reserves of delicate. Like you’re a crystal chandelier in the shape of my beautiful boy. And then, in my minds eye, I see all the thousand ways you’ll be disappointed by the realities of life you can’t even fathom at this point. Sculpted from this thing of beauty into another thing of beauty to be sure. But still, that journey is treacherous and full of potential. Potential harm. Potential fortune. Potential damage and grace.

Maybe it’s you. Maybe I’m not just a proud dad that’s just insanely obsessed with my kids. Maybe your specialness, your perfectness is not a function of my pride. Perhaps you are magical and I’m afraid of being at the helm and breaking you by some silly decision I make that seems necessary that I’ll grow to regret years from now.

I could stare at the pictures of you, the you you are now, on the precipice of independence and I dread the pain that growing up can be.

You’ll be fine. I know that. But you’ll be broken too. You have to be. Good, happy little boys can’t survive growing up. If they could they’d never grow up. Which sounds good until you realize that never growing up makes it hard to be a good man. That’s just the way it is. It’s okay. If you figure out what’s important from being a boy you can pull some of those parts out and take them with you. You may have to pack them away for a time, but they will be there when the time comes and you need them again.

A broken arm is one thing. I can handle that. Easy, actually. But the thought of you being teased or picked on or not knowing what to do in a school cafeteria and feeling sick and disoriented because you think everyone doesn’t like you, that thought ties me in knots. I got caught up in that process when I was a kid. I cried everyday for months when I was sent to school the first time. I was removed eventually and allowed to return the following year, but by then I knew to be cautious. I knew people didn’t like me. I knew they didn’t have to. What was wrong, though, was that I looked at the few that enjoyed making fun of me and thought ‘how can I do what they want me to do? How can I make them like me and stop picking on me?’. All along there was a world of kids who’d have been delighted to play and be my friends. But I just kept trying to impress the cool kids, even shunning kids I’d have gotten along with great who weren’t at the ‘right’ table.

Eventually I figured it out and sat safely where I didn’t want to be. It was mostly fine and it largely defined who I was to the world, or at least to my classmates who comprised the entirety of the world for me then. It took so long for me to be the me I liked and was comfortable being. I learned early on how to make them like me and I leaned on that all the way through school, which I hated because of how it all began. I spent so many years not liking me, internalizing the voices of all the wrong people.

All because I had some tough early days. The types of days grown ups like to say are ‘tough but you get through them’. Days we fool ourselves into thinking aren’t all that important because we were 5 and how much damage can really happen to a healthy and loved 5 year old. But we’re wrong. We can get hurt and scar up in tender places at very young ages. Even those of us that had enough of everything. imageI see your precious face and your beautiful and awesome expectation that nothing breaks and everyone will love you always and it scares the hell out of me. Because some day you’ll feel weird, alone and scared. And you won’t know why. And it will break you as it must. In the end I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about the ‘weird’ and the ‘scared’. You need to get through these things. We all do. But if we can help you with the alone part for as long as possible and stay present for the times you’ll need to explore being ‘away’ than maybe, just maybe, a small but invaluable piece of you, a piece of the you you are now might be able to make it through to the other side. If it does I hope that you are able to see all the things that I’m getting to see in you. If you do you’ll see what all that breaking was for. You’ll know once again what it feels like to be a fragile chandelier. To look at something you love so much that you can’t even imagine it ever not loving you back. The mere thought makes me break just a little.

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206 thoughts on “Handle with Care

  1. ljdove23

    This made me cry, so beautiful and exactly how I feel when I look at my children. I wish that we could wrap them up in cotton wool and protect them from anything and everything and yet as parents we have to let them free. My eldest is 11 and I have really had to loosen the reins this last few months, has been so hard but also so lovely to see him soar. Xx

    Liked by 3 people

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  2. Pingback: Reblog: Handle with Care | Starting Over in 2013

      1. wrighto74

        Thank you.
        I think I still wish that my girl would out her hands up in the air wanting me to pick her up and put her on my shoulders but that was then!
        So much to savour and love, I’m new to blogging but really enjoy how you write

        Liked by 3 people

  3. -Amatullah-

    So beautifully vulnerable & honest. It’s good to know I’m not the only one contemplating all of this about my children, while it appears I am just sitting & watching, smiling. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

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  5. Abby Boid

    It’s that ability we have to somehow allow all those little breaks to make us stronger that is such an amazing part of being human. And for the bigger breaks – you are so there to help patch those up and help him navigate around the cracks that will inevitably be left.That is one lucky little boy….nearly as lucky as you 😉
    Lovely post – thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. Pingback: PARENTING – Handle with Care | World Health Innovation Summit

  7. Reflections Of A Bear

    That innocence and fragility in children is both beautiful and terrifying. We’ve already been through the gauntlet of growing up, we’ve already been broken and reshaped, and emerged out the other side. But they… they have no idea. And we just want to protect them, all the while knowing that we can’t, that we shouldn’t, because they have to grow up too. So we just do our best to help that innocence and fragility last for a while, and soften the blows as much as we can when they come.

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