Because he has this knack for speaking from his heart and because he means no harm, it’s hard not to fall in love with him. This child with hopes so simple and sweet. Ever since the moment I laid eyes on my son, I could feel a visceral connection. He knows when I’m upset and cannot rest until he’s certain I feel better.
My son had just turned five when his father and I separated. He asked for his father regularly and needed frequent reminders as to why mommy and daddy no longer lived together and were getting a divorce (his father was gay). Even in my overwhelm, I recall being patient with him about this. He was so young and yet showed an emotional wisdom that threw me at times.
One day, months after his father moved out, my son and I went out for hot chocolate. We sat at a table for two in the local coffee shop, waiting for our beverages to cool. He reached for my hand, squeezed it, told me he loved me and then bowed his head in sadness. I waited a moment before speaking up.
“What is it, buddy?” I asked. “What’s the matter?”
He kept his head down, staring at his feet swinging nervously above the salt-stained floor. “I’m sad,” he said simply.
My heart lurched. I wanted to scoop him up in my arms and hold him tight. I didn’t care what the reason was. I only wanted him to feel happy instead of sad. These early days were so raw, so steeped in emotion. I felt guilty. I felt overprotective. I felt helpless.
“What’s making you sad, baby?”
He looked quickly to the side and back down again. “I’m worried,” he said.
“Oh honey, I’m sorry to hear that. What has you worried?”
His little frown was heartbreaking, but in that moment I said a prayer of thanks. He was talking. Even if it was sadness, he was communicating. This was good.
“I’m worried about Daddy, about hurting his feelings.”
This was surprising. My son was rarely unkind. What could possibly hurt his father’s feelings?
“Tell me more about that, baby. How would you hurt his feelings?
He swallowed hard and finally looked up at me. “Because I like girls. I’m not like my daddy. I want to marry a girl. I don’t want to marry a boy.”
Relief and concern flooded my veins at the very same second. Of course this was not something that would hurt his father, but at the same time, it bothered my son.
“I see,” I said quietly, waiting to see if he wanted to say more.
“And I’m sorry for you mommy. I’m sorry daddy doesn’t love you. And I wish he still did. Can he? Can he love you again?”
Now it was my turn to swallow hard. Briefly, I resented the fact that I was the one who had to explain this, but I let that thought pass. I needed to focus on my son. This was an opportunity to speak from the heart, just as he was clearly doing.
“Daddy loved me, but it was a friend kind of love. In Daddy’s heart, he wants to marry a man. It just took a while for Daddy to listen to his heart. But you, sweet boy, you are already listening to your heart. You know that you want to marry a girl. That may change, it may not. But you are listening, so you will always know.” I paused and reached for his tiny hand again and squeezed it. “You and Daddy are the same because you are both listening to your hearts now. Life is so much easier when we can do that.”
“Yeah,” he said softly.
“And now Mommy can find someone who loves her more than a friend. I can marry someone who listens to his heart.”
My son leaned down to kiss my hand quickly and smiled. “Did you know I’m the fastest runner in my class, Mommy? Cullen is almost as fast, but not really.”
And just like that, back to normal.
I sighed, leaned back and listened. So many moments I’ve probably gotten wrong, skipped over or missed somehow. This one though, I was present and loving. God was with us.