Do I Laugh or Cry?

Dear Aden,

It’s 11 at night, and I find myself unable to sleep. My body is exhausted, but my mind reels with thoughts of today. Mostly, I keep thinking about you.

You elicit such strong reactions from me.

Hysterical laughter.

Heartfelt sorrow.

And passionate protection.

Tonight’s bedtime routine was fairly typical. All four of you were showered, jammies on, and almost ready for bed. But just before the lights went out, you tried closing the door to your bedroom, and you smashed Lucy’s fingers in the door. Three of her right hand fingers were caught in the wedge of space between door and wall. In her hurry to remove her hand, she ripped skin, causing even more damage to the already bruised fingers.

She was silent for several seconds, swallowing a huge gulp of air before letting out an explosive scream.

In the few seconds of silence after the initial release, as she sucked in her breath, readying herself for another wail, I heard another cry.

I gathered Lucy in my arms, bringing her with me to where you were unleashing a torrent of tears. You had shoved your head in the small crack between the couch and the wall. Your guttural cries were deep.

Though you could easily get your head out, you refused to lift it to speak with me. Overwhelmed by the task of holding still-sobbing Lucy and attempting to comfort you, I sat down on the shaggy carpet in your bedroom and waited until you came to me for solace.

You didn’t.

Your cries of guilt continued. Each cry grew huskier and deeper than the one before. As I realized your grief over your sister’s injury, I tried to let you know that it was a simple accident. You were just swinging the door shut.

Your inconsolable anguish melted my heart, and tears welled up in my eyes.

To feel other’s pain so intensely is such a gift. It’s a tender heart that is drawn to other’s grief. Through my tears, I wanted to protect you from ever losing such a passionate sensitivity to others. I tried to find the right words to express that your tears were ok, but Lucy had well quit crying before you could control your body’s tremors and small hiccups that come only after the hardest of tears.

By then, I’m not sure I expressed clearly my thoughts. Here’s what I tried to hard to tell you tonight, but was lost in the tears of you, Lucy, and myself:

Cry when others cry, Aden.

Repent over harm done to others, even when accidental.

Let your passionate heart help you learn to love others.

When no one else cares, be the one who stops to listen to someone’s story.

Laugh out loud if you think something is funny.

You’ve made us laugh more than we ever imagined. A lot of times on purpose. But often, your funniest times are in the most innocent moments of childhood.

The other night, as we took turns praying before bedtime, we prayed for Eli’s poison ivy to heal, and Bella’s scratch on her leg. Prayers were done, but you insisted we need to all gather around you and lay hands on you and pray.

When we asked what was wrong, you immediately inspected your flawless five-year-old body, clad only in Superhero underwear. Finding nothing as obvious as a “bo-bo” or other ailment, you had to improvise.

You pointed to your chest, asking us to pray for your “boops.” Stunned, your dad and I gaped at each other, wondering what should we do?

The decision clearly wasn’t ours to make. Before we could utter our parental “yay” or “nay,” Eli, Bella and Lucy had already gathered around you as you lay on your bed.

Their little hands sincerely rested on your chest, as Bella took it upon herself to pray for your “boops” that they wouldn’t hurt anymore.

Daddy and I bowed our heads, closed our eyes, and shook with laughter. Tears streamed down both our faces, at the hysterical nature of the prayer. Your smug smile stayed on your face through all the long drawn-out minutes of Bella’s prayer. I think you were happy that the child who we think must have the longest prayers of any four-year-old in history had chosen to pray for you.

By the time she said her final amen (there were several false ones in the middle of the prayer), you were ready to go to bed. Your “boops” were fine you announced. It seemed to be a true miracle. An instant healing if I ever saw one.

Oh, Aden. I laugh with you. I cry with you. And I love you.

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