A Letter to My Son Logan: You Will Never Be Too Old For Me to Hold Your Hand
From start to finish, it took three days and three solid hours to push you out of my body. With a fever setting in, sweat dripping from my forehead, the doctor said he had let me labor as long as he could, and he’d let me do either one more push with a vacuum or I’d need to have a caesarian. As a lawyer, I asked for a risk/benefit analysis of each, and then with one push where I felt my body rip in two, and with a full NICU team in the room, you appeared. Your round bald head, creamy white body, and big blue eyes seemed so out of place against my tan skin, but our connection was instant. In one quick moment, you had become my everything. The reason I breathed. The first thing I looked for in the morning when I opened my eyes.
After three days in the NICU for jaundice, with me sleeping on the couches in the waiting room, too scared to leave you alone, you finally came home. And for months on end with your father traveling, it was you and I dancing around our house, me singing the lyrics of Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are,” your eyes laughing. Then you linked your fingers around mine, stirring a protective instinct from inside me. My arms wrapped around you replacing the cocoon of my womb. I had to make the world safe for you.
I didn’t let you sleep in your own room for months. I woke every two hours to check your breathing even though you had a HALO monitor. Even when I put you in a crib, I ordered a mattress cover from New Zealand to keep off gassing at bay and didn’t let you have blankets or pillows for two years because I worried about SIDS. I used cloth diapers to prevent the chemicals from seeping into your skin.
When you started solid food, I cooked everything from scratch and cut it up in tiny pieces for you to eat. I did not let you walk up and down the stairs alone. You were my first baby and so I indulged the paranoia of new parenthood by following every rule. (Your siblings didn’t share the same fate. I happily let them eat paste flavored like strawberries. Why flavor paste if not for children to eat it?)
But as you grew and began exploring the world around you, my role as protector began to change. When you were four, we went to the park and it was littered with sharp branches with thistles on them. Still wanting to keep you safe, I told you they were snakes and to not touch them. You believed me and avoided the sticks. But then a week later at the same park, with your dirty blonde hair dusting your forehead and confidence dripping from your angelic pores, you told another little boy who went to pick up the sticks not to touch them because they were snakes, and he laughed at you. He picked it up, shaking it in front of your face, and I watched your mind slowly process that the truth. You brought the branch over to me, showing me that I was wrong and it wasn’t a snake at all.
Guilt washed over me as I worried that my one little white lie might undermine your faith in me. Why had I lied to you? It was in that moment that I realized as a parent there were limits to how much I should try to protect you. My job wasn’t to fortify the world around you, but to teach you to make good choices. To know right from wrong.
“Honey, oh, they aren’t snakes. But they are very sharp and I don’t think you should play with them,” I said, tucking my hair behind my ear along with my pride.
“Oh, yes I see,” you said examining the sharp points. “You are right. I won’t play with them.”
You hugged me tight.
“These are dangerous,” you yelled to the little boy, as you skipped away.
I vowed right then to be honest with you. Although, when I tried to tell you that Santa Claus wasn’t real, you told me you didn’t care what other people said, he was real and no one could take that from you. Who was I to unravel the innocence you wrapped yourself in? You needed to do that at your own pace, in your own time.
Last year, at sixth grade orientation, you held my hand the whole time, rested your head on my shoulder, and pulled my arms around you. At first, I worried that other children would tease you for hugging me, but then I realized I raised you not to care. And it’s an incredible honor to know that you trust me, and that you look to me as your safe place. I tucked you into the crook of my arm, and we left orientation with our fingers entwined.
Later, when I tried to talk to you about drugs and sex, you pulled the covers over your head, but even if you didn’t want to hear it, I knew it needed to be said. I can’t let those things find you without any warning from me. Innocence can only last so long.
And now as you enter seventh grade and the real world closes in around us, I have to trust that the instinct to make good choices I planted in you continues to grow.
I will always try to balance protecting you with preparing you for your journey ahead. And no matter what, you will never be too old for me to hold your hand.