This is my oldest baby. My eight year old boy, Solomon.
The older he gets the more I realize how much of his time he spends worrying about the safety of the people he loves. We were sitting at Chic Fil A today when I snapped this photo of him watching his brother and sister in the indoor play area. There were some older kids playing with them who far surpassed the play place height limit, and Solomon was worried the rulebreakers wouldn’t be gentle with his siblings. So he watched. Quietly. Furrowed brow. Until he couldn’t take it anymore and he blurted, “I’m just gonna go sit in there to keep and eye on them. Those big kids are being too rough.”
He was six years old when we had our first significant encounter with his protective nature. I was “cooking” (ehem... burning) dinner in the kitchen and (per usual) I set off the fire alarm. There was no actual danger to anything other than my charred pan of bacon, so I set our smoking supper on the stoop outside the back door and did my “wave a towel at the fire alarm” dance until it’s incessant beeping stopped. That’s when I heard Solomon holler from outside the front door, “Mom! We’re okay! I got Lincoln and brought him outside with me!” His first response in an emergency was to make sure everyone was safe, including his one year old brother.
It is a heavy realization that our sweet boy quite literally feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. As his parents, we find ourselves constantly trying to navigate the fine line between honoring and encouraging this beautiful, natural gift and tendency, and protecting him from responsibility too large for his tiny heart to bare. It is not an easy task. How do we find the words to teach him about personal and community safety without instilling fear and anxiety in him? When is the right time to introduce him to the world’s endless catalogue of danger? How long can I wait before I tell him the tales of caution and woe he will need to hear to prepare him for the unpredictable world ahead?
With each passing year I can feel his innocence slowly fading away. It lifts quietly and gently, just like his sweet, steady personality and I know that it is only a matter of time before his childlike trust that the world is ALWAYS perfect and just and beautiful will be gone. It’s like a still morning fog, waiting for the sun to melt it away and reveal all the hidden, unseen things beneath.
For now, I will gladly continue to shoulder the bulk of his load until the day he grows strong enough to take the last of it upon himself. The world can be a heavy place, and I hope we raise him to let his love lighten the weight of it. But today? Today he let me hold his hand when we crossed the street and I smiled in the knowing that the fog hasn’t quite lifted just yet. And then I squeezed his hand just a little bit tighter...