I Love That About Him

My baby, the child of my heart, turned seven this week. With the literalism of a first grader, he insisted he wasn’t seven until 6p.m. On the way out to the playground, his teacher began to tease him that maybe we shouldn’t have a birthday party after all, but halted mid-sentence. She knows my boy is a sensitive soul. A few hours earlier he had involved the whole class in a discussion of unkindness on the baseball field.

When we came in the door of his classroom that afternoon, Alex greeted us with a passion partly due to the surprise cupcakes we were carrying, and to our presence in his Other World–but also just because that’s who he is. Maybe all children are like this with their own families. I don’t know. All I know is that every day, in almost every interaction, I can see Alex’s love for his family, particularly his little siblings. His fierce adoration can’t be contained. You can see how much their presence completes him.

It occurs to me that this is the essence of my firstborn: he’s 100% heart. Although he’s got a good brain, his thoughts are formed by his heart. I love that about him. He watches the news, worries about the people and situations he sees. Perhaps worry isn’t the right word. He lets it go, but returns to it later, turning over the pieces in his head, trying to make sense of a crazy world. Weather, politics, crime, pop culture–he process his world through a mind formed by his heart. He’s old for his age, that way. It lays him bare to the earthier, more worldly souls among his peers.

He rides himself hard, gets frustrated, and takes criticism deep within, justified or not. Among his peers he often looks frustrated, a little lost amid the alliances and unspoken understandings the other kids get instinctively.

But here at home, among his family, he knows who he is. He doesn’t do as many activities as his peers, and he doesn’t have as much Stuff as many of them do, partly because we choose to live differently, but partly because there just isn’t enough to go around in a family of this size. That is one reason many people don’t have more than the standard two children–this feeling that they’re doing wrong by their kids if they have to split the finite resources of the family more ways. Yet I hold up Alex against that fear. His life is formed and defined by love–by people, not by accoutrements. And he’s such a beautiful soul.

I love that about him. God grant he remains that way into adulthood.