I pull up the camera on my phone, trying, trying to catch eyes squeezed shut, gapped teeth all showing, an arched back and head flung back. But he almost always catches me and furrows his brow and cocks his head to the side. He wants to know what I’m doing, I guess, and how I’m doing it. I try to tickle him with one hand and take a picture with the other but he’s on to me now.
And I’ve ruined that moment of him giggling and not thinking and figuring but being free. Because I wanted to catch it to show other people. People who say “he’s so serious” and I hear “he doesn’t seem happy.” My mind in its enormous and out of control love and protection of this small, defenseless, innocent child runs to thoughts that they will label him.
They will tell him he’s serious and he will be serious. They will tell him he isn’t fun and he will be no fun because he will believe them. And that’s why I ruin it when he is having fun. Because I want to balance out the serious.
I love the serious. The serious is a reflection where I can see myself and even more so, the man I love. I can see generations of people before him in flashes of individuals we know and love and fight with. The serious is a product of the focus and the thinking and the determination, I imagine. Of intense observation. But the serious is not what the world loves.
Is it? Don’t they all want to see an exuberant, silly, grinning child?
And I am dying as I think that he will be misunderstood. And maybe that’s because of my own inability to handle being misunderstood I tell myself. And maybe it is. But I tell myself either way. And maybe he won’t care. Maybe it won’t even hurt him at all. Maybe he will be so strong. Or so indifferent. Or so oblivious. No, I don’t think he will be so oblivious.
And that’s why when the cashier in the store talks to him and even reaches over and tickles him and he remains stoic that I hold my breath, waiting to see if they say something that could hurt a sensitive heart, were he old enough to understand. And that’s why when he waits to wave and say “bye-bye” until we are almost out of the store, I want to run back and show them. Because then, instead of frowning back at him, they would smile and clap.
The world will tell him he is serious. But will I know how to tell him that maybe he is or maybe he isn’t but that what they say does not determine whether he is or not? And that if he feels serious and he is in his bones serious, it’s because he was made that way by design? And that someday he will find someone who has a soft spot for the serious and who maybe he doesn’t feel so serious around? And can I say all that without it sounding like there is something wrong with being serious?
I don’t think I can. I will say it wrong. And this is the heartbreak of being a mother and the glory of being a believer. It’s not all up to me.
I can see us, in several years, Jack and me. He will be tan from running wild all summer and his blonde hair will be unruly and he will look at me with dark blue, teardrop eyes that can see right into me and read things he is too young to know about. And I will be reaching for him, like I always am now. Pulling him to me for a quick squeeze and a kiss as he goes by, always in a hurry. And he might be serious or he might be laughing his fool head off.
And he will be so beautiful.