This image was taken at a local cafe by the sea after we had just spent some time at a park. He was telling me how much he missed the girl he had just connected with at the park. Her name was Meadow. He not only told me that he missed her but that he loved her. Can you see the achy look in his eyes? I needed to capture it for myself, for him and for my family to show how very deep this boy loves but he doesn't give his love to just anyone. He needs to feel safe and he needs to feel seen and then when he opens, he opens so very deeply.
Parks are not easy for Cedar. It takes quite a bit of energy and reserves for him to be there because of the crowds, the sounds and the unpredictability of children. He often tells us he's not up for it, so when he does show interest, its a big deal and its exciting and it also means for me, I need to be on so that I can help him navigate what comes his way. It had been a while since we had been to one as we spent most of the sunny days on the beach or on trails or at our cute little bay and creek near our house. So in all honesty, I was feeling a bit of anxiety myself as we walked up to the park holding hands.
Then, as I let him go and he ran to the play area, I witnessed something I had not yet witnessed before. He was pausing when it got loud and taking deep breaths. He was saying "excuse me" if someone ran into him and he was offering to help a few littler toddlers up stairs. He still remained in his own little play world but he didn't completely melt down in the way he used to where he would scream or get physical or just want to leave. I even noticed he was starting to engage with others, which again is not his typical way. I was pushing him on the swing and to the girl next to him he said...
"I'm a silly guy. I'm a REALLY silly guy. When I was a baby, I didn't have any tricks but now I have a lot of tricks."
I laughed deep over that one. Yes, buddy...you're pulling out all of your tricks today.
I know going to the park and playing with other children is something that so many families perhaps don't really think twice about. I always stood back and observed the plethora of families at our parks and wondered what it would be like to be able to sit on a bench and fully relax and even have a conversation with someone while your child plays with others. It was never like that for me. Cedar would be in a corner with his hands over his ears or in tears because someone bumped into him and it hurt his body twice as much as a normal kid to be touched or he would just want to be in the swing for an hour because the motion of swinging is predictable and predictable is his safe place. If a child tried to talk to him or engage, he would make a sound like an animal or run a bunch of facts about the Titanic to them and they would just shrug their shoulders and leave and he would stand there with a broken look on his face and I would pick up the pieces.
But this day was different and what an average day to some moms would be, to me it was enormous.
He found this girl over by this wheel. He was steering it and she stood there watching him. He said to her "I'm on the Titanic and there is an iceberg!" and she said "I'll be the captain!" and his whole entire being lit up...and that was it. He was a goner. They ran around the park for the next half hour pretending to be on a ship and she seemed to think he was awesome rather than strange. Then another girl wanted to join and of course to Meadow, this was cool but to Cedar, he was crushed. He came over to me in tears. "I can only play with one, not two" and I know what he meant. It wasn't about not being able to share. Its about how over stimulated he gets when engaging with more than one person. So he told me he wanted to go. I sat and asked if he felt up to trying to share his space with his new friend. He agreed to try and he ended up just standing there observing them and I could tell he was making a decision to leave. "I need to say goodbye to her mommy". So he stood and waited for her to look at him but she was running around. He waited for about 10 full minutes and I knew he wouldn't leave without saying goodbye. Finally her mother started noticing that this boy was standing there staring at her little girl from across the playground and she got her daughter's attention... "Meadow, I think your friend wants to tell you something".
Meadow was at the top of the slide and paused and looked down at my Cedar at the bottom of the slide looking up at her. He yelled to her with his hands cupped over his mouth...
"I give you all my loves from my belly to you! I give you all my hugs!"
...and he swooshes his hands from his belly up towards the sky at her. Her big blue eyes widened and she looked at her mom, then at me, then back at him. He yelled again...
"I give you all of my loves!"
...just in case she hadn't heard him the first time. Meadow hugged herself, as if to say to him "I feel your love and hugs". Her mother looked at me with tears in her eyes and asked me "How old is your boy?!? He's breaking my heart." and I felt speechless. I looked down at him and asked if he wanted to stay and he walked away with his hand on his heart..."I already said goodbye mommy. Lets go."
I wasn't going to force him to stay. Its like he knew he had given all he could give for the time being and I respected and honored his choice. The ride to the cafe was quiet. I felt him deeply as he looked out our window. He's not even 5 yet and I wonder how much more intense his connections to people will be as he grows older. People think I am exaggerating about his deepness or sensitivities until they spend time with him and then they see and then I am told often how much Cedar has changed their life.
Just this past weekend we spent a full day and evening at Seattle Children's Hospital. He had to get his stitches out and since they were in his behind, which is a very vulnerable area and he had to be fully relaxed and not clenched and in a certain position for them to be reached, it had been an emotional two weeks trying to get them out. We tried the doctors, we tried at home with a kit we were given and every time was traumatic. Mainly because when he did get the stitches, there was a mistake and it was very painful when it shouldn't have been and he had to be restrained hard and it was traumatic for our family to need to help restrain him when he was pleading for us to stop. He's still moving through it and we are working through his anxieties about it. But the children's hospital was very tender and aware of what we had been through and it was such a blessed experience witnessing him beginning to trust his four nurses and doctor over a few hours. Every time a new hospital staff person came into our private room, he would say...
"My name is Cedar and I am a sensitive boy."
We never taught him to say this. My husband and I would glance at each other and laugh and get teary because we see him so in tune and becoming more fearless about sharing who he is with people. We knew with that declaration of "being a sensitive boy" he was putting up a boundary because of what had happened at urgent care a few weeks back where he didn't feel honored by the staff there for his sensitivities to touch.
When we were getting ready to leave the hospital, one of the staff brought up a big ferry boat toy that she bought him at the hospital store. "I'll never forget you, Cedar", she said and told us how special he is. They had bonded over his love of the Titanic and she brought in an iPad to watch a Titanic documentary during the procedure. We watched her go from stoic to totally melted mush within 30 minutes of being with him and it was a beautiful connection to witness.
The next day over breakfast, Cedar said to me "That brown lady last night" (she was wearing a brown sweater) "Can we send her a gift? I love her. I really love her in my belly."
I often feel overwhelmed that we were chosen to be his parents. Chosen by him, by God, by a spiritual connection that is ancient. That overwhelm often gets soothed by the people that come into his life that take time to get to know him and create wide open spaces for him to fully BE and do a lot of listening because he has a lot to say. Then we don't feel so alone in all of this.
This down deep in the belly love of his has taught me so much and I know will teach me so much more.