Be careful with me.
That’s what my 3 yr. old, Rhys says when I change his diaper. Instead of pitching a fit over a cold wet wipe, or writhing around as if he’s actually being hurt he began to articulate exactly what needed to happen when I wipe him. He needed me to take care.
Think of me, Mama.
That’s what Rhys said when we rode bikes together the last time it was warm in Michigan. It was hard to keep pace with him without toppling over so I’d go out a little ahead and circle back around. He didn’t like when I left him. He wasn’t ready yet to string together the words, “get yo tail feather back here, woman!” So he asked me to think of him. He needed me to remember he was still there.
Love me, Mama.
That’s what Rhys used to say when he dove in for a hug. He wanted me to hug him back like I meant it. He needed me to reciprocate in a way that he understood to mean love.
Will you see me, Mama?
That’s what Rhys sometimes says when he knows I’m about to leave. He wants me to wave from the car. He needs to be sure I see him when he waves back simply because it’s important to him.
While pregnant, the hubby & I sensed from the Lord he’d be a passionate child filled with fervor and life. Because of this we named him Rhys King. Rhys (pronounced Reese) means fiery & passionate. King after Dr. Martin Luther King who was a fiery, passionate preacher and one of the most important African-American leaders in the last century.
Like clockwork, he thrashed and kicked in my womb.
As a baby, he voiced his opinions so loudly, so violently I often broke down myself, weary that I’d survive his baby stage. And I almost didn’t.
Now, he’s a strong-willed, fiery, passionate toddler who sometimes struggles to have compassion and deliberately does things to hurt or annoy others. Sometimes, he won’t listen. Sometimes, he refuses to be corrected through timeouts or other last ditch attempts to discipline him. He is only the 2nd person on the planet who can make me angry to tears, ill with questions and discouraged under piles of self-doubt. At times, I have wanted to throw my hands up.
I cannot do this. I cannot do this. I cannot do this with this child. He is too difficult. He is much too much, and I much too weak.
But something gave.
He started using his voice to articulate deep truths in such ordinary moments.
And for the first time, I heard him.
I hear Rhys. He asks for what he needs and I hear him. Like magic, he stirs up compassion in me that I sometimes blame him for making me lose.
My son tells me to be careful with him.
And I am more careful.
My son tells me to think of him.
And I think about his needs.
My son tells me to see him.
And I am sure to remember.
I hear you, Rhys. Mama is listening.
As we approach Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, I am keenly aware of your need for me to listen well.
One day, King Rhys you will use your voice and change the world.
But you will have changed mine first.