The past few days have been quite challenging, as we are all adjusting to one another. One of the unsung heroes in all of this is Little Man. He’s been incredible—patient and adaptable. And he has taught me so much about grace and love and paying attention to the things that really matter.
Today, we saw some walls of bravado from Soccer Boy. And thanks in large part to Little Man, I had the privilege of recognizing the flimsy scaffolding straining to hold them up.
The first incident began at the grocery store. When I told him “ne” to something, he used some vulgar language. It was clear that he didn’t know what he was saying—it was used the same way another kid would say “Awwww man!!” But then he said it again. And again, along with another word. Then he sang a rap song with them both in it. I told him it was a bad word in Angļu. And I know he was just imitating things he had heard and didn’t mean it the way it sounded. I would just keep correcting it. And it was just me and my boys and some strangers in a grocery store, and what did I care about what they thought of us?
Until it wasn’t just us.
He said it again on a playground while the boys were playing with two other children, and it seemed more serious to me. I quietly corrected it, and then I overheard Little Man talking to the others.
“Don’t worry. It probably means something different in his country. He isn’t really trying to be bad.”
My heart swelled with love for Little Man and then melted with compassion for Soccer Boy in that moment. He’s not trying to be bad. He’s just trying to be brave. And he’s just trying to show us that he has something worth hearing. He’s just hoping he can catch our attention.
But he already has our attention. We are already listening, and he is worth far more than he even imagines.
Little Man got that in an instant. And it is not out of naiveté—he actually heard those words recently and we had a long conversation about exactly what they meant and how much weight they carry. How much hatred and anger are in them. How much they are designed to harm.
Little Man did not speak to those other children about Soccer Boy lightly. And I needed to pay attention.
This would have been enough grace for me today, to be able to marvel at God’s perfect timing in preparing my son for this moment through other unrelated situations. I never imagined that a talk about swearing a few weeks ago would reap such a harvest, that my son would take my words and then show me how to give grace beyond grace to someone else.
But there was still more.
After dinner, when the boys were riding bikes, my dad came over. Soccer Boy is enamored with him, and asked four or five times today when he could see him again (and even wanted to buy bread at the store like what we had eaten at their house yesterday). In an effort to impress, I’m sure, he got going on his bike too fast and wiped out but good.
What happened next broke my heart into a thousand pieces.
He was hurting badly, with two bloody knees, but he wouldn’t cry. I took him in the house and started to clean him up. I could see on his face the intense pain, and I gave him cuddles and hugs, which is what caused him to actually cry.
Not cry, though. Not exactly. More like strangled gulps of pain that he could not hold in any more. And then stiffness, and pushing me away.
We got band-aids on and my dad kept encouraging him to try again and gave him lots of praise. Soccer Boy did it and soaked up the affection, even though it was pretty apparent that his knees hurt a lot.
After my dad left, Soccer Boy slid off his bike and started running laps around the front yard to fight through the pain. He was trying to be so brave.
Just cry. Please.
The emotional walls shimmered around him as he ran.
Little Man leaned over me and said, “Wow. He got over that fast.” I told him that he wasn’t over it, but was trying not to cry because that was how you had to do it in the orphanage. Crying wasn’t allowed.
Little Man didn’t say anything. But he must have thought on it.
Later, after I had changed bandages and navigated a mini-meltdown because the bandages weren’t the ones he was familiar with and I frantically scoured the house and car for gauze squares…and then he wouldn’t let me help him, so I painfully bit my tongue about the way he wanted the tape and the bandages, even though I could have done it better…after all that, I just wanted boys in bed.
And I got out of my shower to find Little Man standing on his bed so he could talk to Soccer Boy on the top bunk. What now??
“I was just telling him that it’s safe to cry here, Mama.”
So I did.
I cried the sadness that Soccer Boy won’t let himself cry. I cried the pain that Little Man experiences that allows him to know this truth. I cried for both these little ones.
I cried for myself, too. Because so often I am the one running laps around the lawn, determined not to share my pain with One who has band-aids waiting. And I insist on creating my own makeshift bandages that are far less effective than what He has to offer.
I don’t deserve such a boy as Little Man, who speaks truth with compassion and generosity and grace. So much grace.
Grace that forgives easily. Grace that sees through walls of bad words. Grace that makes it safe to cry. Grace that attends to the things that matter.
I hope I get to be like Little Man when I grow up.