As a mom, I know all the advice says not to pigeonhole my children into categories. If you label a child as the “sporty” one or the “shy” one, it causes all kinds of problems. Kids have trouble breaking into a sibling’s special area, or unhealthy competition ensues.
In spite of that, it’s also true that they have unique personalities. I’ll admit, it’s usually Older who surfaces as the “sensitive” child. He noticed the feelings of others from a young age, gets anxious when characters in movies make poor choices, and becomes visibly upset when even gently corrected. Younger is prickly about looking foolish, and a bona fide momma’s boy, but isn’t nearly as emotionally open as his brother.
That is why I was almost shocked a few nights ago, when Younger pointed out a book on his shelf and declared, “I can never read that book without crying.” I was so touched by his simple declaration and honesty. We had already finished our reading for the night, but I grabbed the book, Puff the Magic Dragon, off the shelf to read to him.
We talked a bit at first about how I remember the story. Those of you who are my age out there probably remember hearing it sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary. I also remember my own father singing it to me. Jared, however, has only experienced it as a picture book. He objected to me singing the tale, so I read it instead. In the song, Jackie Paper leaves Puff when he is all grown up. I got all choked up at that part, and Jared had a little smile on his face. The picture book is better, though, because the final page shows the renewing of the cycle. Jackie, all grown up, is standing in the background as his daughter approaches Puff.
Younger smiled at me as I wiped the tears from my eyes and said, “That’s the first time I didn’t cry.” We chatted briefly about how it was okay to be sad, and to show that you are sad. We had a similar discussion while watching Harry Potter and experiencing the deaths of Cedric and Dumbledore together.
His response to Puff just reminded me to take the time to reflect on the gentleness and sensitivity that exists in all children – even little boys. They don’t start out tough and arrogant. My boys’ hearts are entrusted to me, and it’s my job to help keep them as soft as possible.