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."
What a lovely inspirational post. There is always so much that we can learn from kids… always so much.
Oh so sweet, I have a bruiser too, every picture we have of year one to two he has a bruise somewhere, usually on his head from colliding into something. Such sweet memories you brought back.
It’s true. Just letting them learn stuff themselves, often the hard way, is tough!
Thank you for reading.
Thank you, Jessica.
What can we do with these little adventurers? I fight a powerful instinct to wrap Zee up in cotton wool!
Love this. It’s hard to realize that we have no control over our kid’s personalities but also fun to learn about them and where their strengths lie. Great piece.
I think the best part of being a parent is discovering who your children are. It’s wild how different they can be.
But it does the heart no favours when they appear to have no thought for self-preservation. My goodness, this little boy is crazy!
Oh lord do I know what this is all about. My first boy is three and he is fearless. I don’t know what the baby will be like but he seems pretty fearless too. I’m trying to embrace boyhood because I was always cautious. Great post! I’m joining to follow your site.
I don’t see my comment anywhere so I will try again. I know exactly what you are saying here. My three year old boy is fearless and I fear so is my nine month old boy. I’m trying to embrace boy energy but sometimes I wonder how I’m doing.
What a good reminder about the spirit within each of us. I always have to check myself against being cautious or letting my personality-fears-beliefs get in the way of my daughter’s uniqueness. Definitely hard sometimes!
I loved this. You have great insight in to your children. I too have one fearless and one cautious child. They each have their own challenges. I wish the cautious one would let loose a little. I want to get fearless one a crash helmet and require that he wear it all times. Once you’re a mom, your stomach is forever tied up in knots.
Visiting from TRDC
So true. We must let them explore and have confidence that they are a lot stronger than they look. I’ve got a fearless one too. It is amazing to watch her tackle a staircase when she’s never seen one before or put her arms up like she’s on a roller coaster when she is on the swing. Who taught her that? Certainly not me.
My comment just got eaten so I’ll try to remember what I just wrote!
I have a fearless one too. She attempted the stairs and won the first time she ever saw them. She lifts her hands above her head like she is on a roller coaster when she is on the swing. Her new favorite thing is to fall backwards intentionally. Usually onto pillows but it still is a scary thing to watch. But it is also amazing to see such fearlessness. She doesn’t get it from me!
A friend once commented on a photo of F – complete with bruised legs -when she was about 18 months old, “I see a proper child’s knee there.”
Love Zee’s spirit. He may have bruised legs like crazy, but with a family like yours, his heart will never bruise.
This really hits home for me. My older boy has always been really cautious–I can count on one hand the number of times he’s truly needed a band aid in his 8 years (as opposed to those band aids you give them even though there isn’t really any need but it makes them feel better). His little brother on the other hand needed stitches before his first year! I was convinced the people in the ER would call social services on me!
Oh, it’s true! It’s all so very true! I can really relate to parenting an adventurous child after parenting a cautious one. Damn, no one told us it’d be like *that*, did they? Great job!
Really good Angie and I get it – it’s Rory all over. He needs to wear a crash helmet sometimes I think. I can tell you are now entering the same phase with Zee, judging by your posts of late.
This is great! It almost broke my heart reading the details of those bruises!
Great post. It’s so true, that kind of spirit comes naturally. We can choose to squash it or nourish it. Glad you’re nourishing it.
This is terrific! I’m afraid my mom went through the same thing with my brother – I was that cautious first born who tricked her into thinking mommyhood would be a breeze. Then came Mr. Walk Into A Wall Forehead First…
i loved this post!! finding the things in our babes that make us love them!! great job with this prompt!
Thank you, Kim!
I think that the cautious child may actually be harder to parent than the adventurer. You never want to push them but at the same time, you want to encourage taking a chance sometimes.
But I am learning that children can grow out of cautiousness – as evidenced by my older son and his determination to fly like Buzz Lightyear!
It does my nerves no favours but ultimately, it reassures me that my children will be okay out in the world.
It’s finding that balance, isn’t it? So tricky. Letting their little spirits soar while keeping them safe.
Ha! So very true.
My mum tells me you never stop worrying. It’s going to be a long life…..
Ha! You have to admire that the headfirst approach to life.
You want your kids to be safe but at the same time, you don’t want to suppress who they are. And you certainly don’t want to replace that spirit with fear.
But the safety. What about the safety??
Thanks, Mad. I hope he will always feel safe here.
I love your friend’s comment about F’s ‘proper knees’ – but still, I just hate seeing little ones with so many bruises!
Oh, Victoria, it’s such an awful feeling, isn’t it? You’re certain people are looking at you like you’re a monster.
What is it about second borns? They’re nutty!
No one tells you a damn thing, Galit! Or if they do, we weren’t listening….
Thanks for reading.
Second child syndrome? There’s something in that, surely.
Yes, Zee is well and truly headfirst into life. In the most literal sense.
Oh JP, they are heartbreaking! But they’re important. So Mumma just braces herself and onwards we go.
Jessica Anne, there is something so primal in me that makes me want to scoop my children up and run for the hills. But I can’t. I have to nourish the person they were born to be.
Thanks for reading.
“Then came Mr. Walk Into A Wall Forehead First…”
Ha! I love it.
Thanks so much for reading.
Thank you for your lovely words, Julia!
My kids are both so much tougher than I could ever expect to be. Even my shy, cautious daughter shows tenacity and toughness when it comes to something she really wants!
Your heart must drop from your chest thirty times a day with a daredevil like your little guy! Poor Mumma 🙂
You called me a formidable writer and I have to repay you the compliment.
You’ve caught memoir by the balls with this one. Informative, well timed, solid imagery and your voice is a strong one. Really did love this. And my toddler is all about the bruises, too, which scares me because I was always timid as a child. But I’d kill for a spirit like hers.
Angela, yes, my poor heart takes a beating. But as you say, it is so worth it to see just exactly the strong stuff our kids are made of.
Thank you for reading.
Thank you, Ericka. I do love a spot of mutual admiration.
I think it would be especially awesome to have a gutsy daughter. To some degree, it is more expected of boys.
My oldest is cautious. The youngest is fearless. And yes, I have a niggling fear that someone will think we abuse her. Between the scratches, the bruises…but you’re right. Her spirit is fearless and what a gift that will be to her.
Yes, I am embracing my fearless one. And bracing myself.
A beautifully written piece! The real fun is when they get black eyes. Then I really don’t want to go out in public!
Oh, no! I don’t think my heart could take a black eye.
Thank you so much for reading.
Oh, man. I know exactly what you mean. Scooby is 3, and I’m still getting used to the “I beat my kid” stares when he wears shorts. *sigh*
I wouldn’t change his zest for life for anything though. Beautiful post!
I imagine with two sons I will have to get used to those stares for years to come.
My toddler had three fat lips in a two week span. He also has bruises. Some he tells me about, others I discover. It definitely shows his adventurous, fearless spirit. I applaud him.
Good for you, letting him explore, letting him bruise, loving him enough to let him be himself, even if himself is a little black and blue.
I hate seeing spirit and imagination squashed in the name of protection.
We have a duty to keep them safe, not smothered.
Ooops… hate it when my soapbox shows up on other people’s blogs. Forgive me?
Silly, soapbox-y you!
But you’re right on the money. Of course you are.
And for little Zee, the hits just keep coming…literally. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
My eldest had constant fat lips. And he was the cautious one!
Fearlessness is kind of cool to observe. Kind of horrifying but mostly, kind of cool. He sure doesn’t get it from me.