When our oldest was a toddler, we began to suspect that he was a fairly sensitive child. As soon as he began to talk, our suspicions were confirmed. He seemed to pick up on emotions and parental concerns more quickly than most children his age. From the tender age of three, he began asking the tough questions (about God, natural disasters, death, etc.). We would do our best to answer them, never talking down to him but making our answers as palatable as possible for his preschool mind. Without fail, two or three days later, he would return to ask a follow up question to our response, proof that he had been pondering our answers ever since we spoke them. He would sneak attack us with his concerns about the world. Our friends and family would often comment about what a sensitive child he was.
I’ve never liked the term “sensitive.” Never. Maybe it comes from my family. When I was Joe’s age, I would be whining and carrying on about something. My mother would make tiny circles between the thumb and forefinger of her right hand and ask me if I knew what that was. It was the smallest record player in the world playing, My Heart Bleeds For You. Sometimes, just to mix things up, she would break into Cry Me A River instead. I suppose that for me, then, sensitivity was equated with whiny weakness. So, I would not allow myself to go there. At the mention that our Joe was sensitive, I bristled. I decided I could not live with that term, even if it was the truth. So, hubby and I opted instead to tell people that our son was a “deep thinker.” He is. He doesn’t cry easily or often, but he ponders the mysteries of the world often and deeply.
This morning I was in the midst of a drawing game on my iPhone. I regularly draw a scene in the Draw Something app and then immediately question whether or not my friend will be able to guess the answer from my substandard artistic attempt. My litmus test consists of sharing the drawing with either my nine or eleven year old son to see if he can guess it. If he can get it, I assume we’re golden. So, that’s exactly what I did this morning. The word I was drawing was “iceberg.” I suspected that my crude iceberg might be lost underneath the very rough drawing of a polar bear standing on top of it. So, I went to my review committee.
“Joe, what do you think this drawing is of?” I asked, covering the answer at the top of my screen so he had no hints.
“Ummm…ice? No. Wait. Is it global warming?”
Holy crap. Really? That’s where we’re going with this drawing?
“Why do you think it’s global warming?” I queried.
“Well…the polar bear is on a piece of ice but there’s no other ice near it. There is water all around. The polar bear looks like he’s stuck.”
Wow. Did not see that coming.
“That’s a little more thoughtful of an answer than I’m looking for here, Joe. Look again, please.”
“Oh…is it iceberg?” he said, finally noticing that I had drawn an arrow to the item the bear was adrift on.
Ding. Ding. Ding. We have a winner.
Later, on the way to school, Joe dropped this light thought on me. Keep in mind that I was less than 1/4 of the way through my morning non-fat latte.
“Mom…you know how people say that space is the final frontier?”
“Ummm…sure,” I replied without a clue as to where this had come from or where it was going.
“I think they’re wrong. I think the final frontier is actually time travel,” he informed me.
“That’s a pretty deep thought to have before 8 a.m., Joe.”
He sat silent for a while and then chimed in again.
“My teacher told the class the other day that we’re all deep thinkers. I think she’s wrong. I don’t think any of them are deep thinkers like me.”
That comment proved it. The phrase we had coined to cushion his ego had actually puffed him up. Suddenly, not only is he not weak, he’s actually got more honest depth than most other people on the planet. Apparently, we accomplished our goal. Our son’s sensitivity is not an issue. He doesn’t even notice it. But, now we’re going to have to do something about that haughtiness.