This time, next week, my little one, you will turn seven. That’s officially the age, in my head, when kids stop being cute and move on to being hyper annoying. Actually, till I had you and your sister, it was age five, but you’ve disproved that. You’ve managed to remain cute a year longer.
When I had you, you weren’t pretty. To be honest, I didn’t even want you. You were a surprise, one I couldn’t get used to or enjoy. Your lactose allergy meant you cried every time you were fed, and we didn’t know. So you cried some more. That didn’t endear you to the postpartum depressive mother that I was. A child who would only feel comfortable if I carried him, or soothed him or fed him. No one else would do. When you were six months old, and beautiful as a rising sun, I watched you watch me wherever I went, while your grandfather held you. In your limpid eyes, I saw a yearning that I had never seen before. You watched as I gathered your sister in my arms, the light from the window turning your wispy hair into a softly-glowing halo, your mouth just a little open, cheeks begging to be kissed. Your eyes followed me every where. That day, I found your mother. Till then, I was your caregiver; you just happened to be born in my womb. But that day, your little six-month-old being, waiting mutely patient to be given the same love I was showering on your sister, chiselled past the barricades my mind had built around your presence. Like a dawn wiping away a night, and taking over a sleeping land, your hunger for love, your quietly powerful insistence that you were my child too, woke me up. You had walked in and turned on the sun.
Since then, I haven’t been able to stop wanting to cuddle you till you rub off on my skin, and keep you safe in my physical heart, forever. With each growing year, you present to me astonishing gifts of and from yourself. Your utter and complete joy, your immense and gobsmacking ability to be the bigger person when there’s a conflict, to say, “It’s okay, Amma, let Shyama have it,” to understand instinctively that illness needs care. Where do you come from, my little man? Where did you learn to listen, and consider what the other person is saying? Like when I said a particularly difficult child in your class might be a bully because he has no friends, and you insisted, crying, that no, he had no friends because he was a bully; but you went back the next day to make friends with him. You came back and said, “You might be right. Maybe he’s lonely and that’s why he bullies us.”
How did you learn, tell me, to forgive so easily? And so wholeheartedly? And how does your heart break so badly, that when you cry, I want to give you the world? I wonder if you know how much I cherish that you want to hold my hand when we walk, whether it’s up the stairs at home or walking down a street. I wonder if you know, that the first time I saw you run a race, you waited for the people you left behind to catch up with you. That for an entire two weeks, when you were a chubby, incredible cuddly three-year old, you spent frantic amounts of time collecting dried leaves because you hated that they fell from trees. And then you refused to step out because fallen leaves would make you cry. Where does this heart of the tenderest flowers come from, my little one? And more importantly, how do I send you out in the world like this? How do I let you go be with people who do not know compassion from a compass? And now that I do have to send you out, how do I make sure your light shines, your compassion, your heart and your infinite kindness are not lost? How do I ensure that you know those are good things to hold on to, to wear as a badge, to share and to teach? How do I teach you that those are not weakness, but magical strengths that will be your biggest allies when life gets tough?
When you cry, my darling, and go limp in my arms when I gather you up, it is the most heartbreaking thing I have experienced. I am engulfed by the pain you are in, even if the pain is of having to bathe first, before your sister. Or the pain of not getting to sit by the window seat in the bus. I hope things that hurt will always be so small; and that if they are big, as you grow bigger yourself, I hope you will always knows that a good, hard cry will always clear things up inside you. The outside mess always clears up on its own.
Two weeks ago you told me about your … erm… girlfriend. I asked you how you knew she liked you. You said because she said so. I hope you will remember for the rest of your life that that is the only way to tell whether a girl likes you: that she explicitly said so. Not because she smiled at you, not because she chatted with you, not because she let you borrow her water bottle. But because she said so. And I hope you’ll always notice the little things about her, like you do now. What do you like about her, I asked. You said, “Her voice. It is so delicate.” For a six year old, you’re pretty darned sweet. I hope you’ll always enjoy shopping for saris, or noticing how a girl looks. “That lipstick really matches your teeth, Amma,” will be the best compliment I’ve never fully understood. If you’re into girls, little one, they like this stuff. And if you are into boys, I am pretty sure they like being noticed and complimented too.
I am very little of the mother you deserve. You are much, much more than the son I deserve. Thank you for making my life easy, when everything else around me is difficult. Thank you for ridiculous jokes, your joy, your utter and complete adorableness. Thank you for being a grown up, even though you shouldn’t have to be. Thank you for coming into my life, and turning on the lights. Without you, I would only be half the person I am.
Happy 7th, my little one.
Your Big One.