We are at the supermarket. There is the intermittent beeping as our groceries are scanned. I look down at little Zee in his pram. I look at his little legs. And then I look up at the checkout woman. I wonder if she has noticed.
“Oh, little one!” I exclaim, “Look at your poor little legs. Little boys!” I shake my head, looking at the woman now, gauging her reaction.
She is smiling but I am sure, on some level, she suspects I beat my child or at the very least, that I’m a negligent parent. Because why else would I make such a show of pointing out my infant son’s legs?
Gorgeous legs, they are. Creamy white and with just enough chub to make you want to take a little bite.
And absolutely covered in bruises.
Circles of dark purple, circles of fading yellow. New and old. Strange formations and patterns leaving me wondering how on earth he has acquired them.
I am squeamish. I can’t see a bruise without associating it with the reality that there has been bleeding just under the surface of the skin. That there has been a blow sustained, hard enough to cause trauma to the surrounding blood vessels.
That this trauma has been sustained by my child, not long a year old, leaves me feeling ill.
And paranoid in public.
Bruises are ugly. They represent pain. They can be the mark of ugly behavior.
But with Zee, they are something else.
With Zee, bruises represent his adventuring spirit. Each new bump and scrape is hard won in his quest to fully explore the world he inhabits, to keep up with his older brother.
And each new bump and scrape is a lesson for me. I learn that my son is resilient. That he is capable, fearless. That he can fall down and then get right back up again. Sometimes after a cry and a cuddle but just as often not.
LD had his share of bruises as a baby. But he was naturally more cautious.
Being the mother of a naturally cautious baby is a lovely thing.
Being the mother of a fearless baby is something else.
The adjustment has been brutal. Not least because I fear people look at his little bruisey shins and question the kind of parent I am. But mostly because I feel it is my job to protect my children from pain of any kind. I don't want them to hurt.
But I understand that protecting my children from pain, from life, apart from being impossible, would do them no favours in building the character that will see them through their lives.
So I look at my tiny little bruised one. Bruises on his legs, bruises on his little forehead, always so many bruises. And I see the spirit that I love so much. I see a little person who is willing to take a chance, who wants to live fully, to try everything. Even things that are hard. Especially things that people think he won’t be able to do. Especially the things people really don’t want him to do because it makes people feel they will die of worry.
An adventurer. Who takes chances. And lives fully.
You can’t teach that kind of spirit.
This post was written in response to this week's The Red Dress Club writing prompt - "Write a short piece about something ugly – and find the beauty in it."