“All of my friends are having a massive playdate today, and they’re bringing their Nerf guns and everything!” my son told me excitedly the other day. Uh oh, I thought, here it comes.
I braced myself for how we should talk about his disappointment over not being invited. “Are you bummed out that you weren’t asked to go too?” I said carefully.
“Nah, I’m good,” he said and then he went on to tell me about all the stuff that they were going to do. And I believe he was truly happy for them. Not jealous. Not sad. Not disappointed. Just happy that his friends were going to be having a good time. For about the millionth time in his 10 years, I thought to myself, where in the heck did you come from?
Raising a child with an old soul can be a humbling experience. Once when he was about 2, I remember eating lunch with him, and I was sad about something but was trying to hide it from him. He kept looking at me while I pretended to smile and act like everything was fine. Finally, he paused and just reached up and touched my cheek with one chubby toddler hand. Then he looked into my eyes with such a depth of understanding that it took my breath away. It was like he was looking into me and really seeing me. And he was a baby.
He’s just so flipping Zen all the time. We watched him skipping down the driveway to school this morning, after a harrowing, last-minute search for homework, socks, snow boots, snack — all interspersed with some hollering from both of his parents. He took it all in stride and then freaking skipped to the school bus.
“Why’s he so damn happy?” I asked my husband, my hair frizzing out around my head, sweating from the exertion of running up and down the stairs 12 times, probably looking like I’d just hosted a rave in my bathrobe.
“He’s always happy,” my husband said. And it’s true. He might be ditzy and spacey and wouldn’t know how to shut his dresser drawers to save his life, but that kid is happy.
He’s more patient with his little sister than I am sometimes. Okay, most of the time. When she was too young to talk, he would often translate for her, despite the fact that he must have been hearing the same garbled nonsense words that I was. It’s like he has a direct connection to her brain that I don’t. When they’re playing outside, I’ve seen her run right to him to be comforted after scrapping her knee, not even bothering to come inside to get me. He tucks her into his lap and pats her hair, and then they go back to pretending that they’ve just conquered the troll queen. He told her yesterday, “I had a lot of fun being wizards with you today. You’re really fun to hang out with.” And then I just die. She will go out into the world expecting every guy she meets to treat her with kindness and consideration — because of him.
And the feelings. Oh my. There are a lot of feelings around here. The world is not always a nice place and learning about that is part of growing up. But he is still processing our talk about animal shelters from, like, two years ago.
Of course, he can still be a little shit sometimes — because he’s a human. He often lives in his own world, and it’s very difficult to drag him back to ours. Sometimes he is the bossiest of brothers and tries to be a third parent. And he can’t find anything — ever. And he definitely rolls his eyes at me when I ask him to put his clean clothes away like any normal, red-blooded, 10-year-old.
But he can look in my eyes when I’m talking and make me think about the world and life and souls and where we came from and where we’re going. He reminds me every day about how lucky we are to have each other. He is the calm when things go chaotic, humming off-tune, learning how to finger-weave.
But I sometimes worry about his old soul.
I worry that his heart will get broken a lot, because when he loves, he loves with everything that he is.
I worry that our modern world will take away some of what makes him unique, and so I chase him off his iPad to go outside with the squirrels and the trees and the quiet.
I worry that, because he feels so much, this world can be overwhelming and scary.
I especially worry that I don’t know what I’m doing as his parent. I don’t think my soul is as old as his.
Raising an old soul is many things, and some of them still surprise me. When he was 3, he told me that before he was born, he searched everywhere for a mom with just the right voice and he was so happy when he found me.
Me too, little one. Me too.