“Is this the road to Paradise?” asked Henry from the backseat.
“Yes it is, great memory Henry!”
“Oh good, I like it there.”
While initially, this may sound like a strange conversation to have with your three year-old, (and no we weren’t talking about Heaven) I assure you that in context it makes total sense.
This weekend we took a break. We headed out of town and spent some time up in the mountains. Just the four of us. I can’t tell you the last time we have taken a vacation with just the four of us. We love spending time with our family and friends and always plan our vacations with them included. In fact, I was shocked that neither Alex or I broke down and made a last minute phone call to someone inviting them to join us…
Our first full day was spent in Mount Rainier National Park in the Paradise Meadows. They were breathtakingly beautiful. Any description I attempt will not do this area any justice. The wildflowers were in full bloom (good luck on our part), the sun was shining, and we were surrounded by vibrant colors everywhere we set foot.
As we drove out of the park and were still oohing and ahhing over the views, I commented to Alex on how such a beautiful area was clearly created and designed by God. His fingerprints were all over the place. The rocky snow-capped mountains, the evergreen trees, and the rolling hills covered in flowers – His mark was everywhere.
Did I mention the wildflowers? They were everywhere we looked. But the one flower that was my favorite wasn’t the rich purple, or the sunny yellow. It was a wildflower that was having a “bad hair day.” I found this flower to be so beautiful, even in comparison to it’s other brightly colored and much louder friends in the same field. And then it all started to make sense as I was downloading our photos this evening….
I think you may see why I found this flower to be so endearing!
We hiked for two days in a row and Henry walked right alongside us, only taking an occasional break in the backpack Alex was carrying. Trying our best to be responsible parents, we discussed with Henry why it was important to walk carefully on the paths. You know the “avoid falling down the steep hillside into a deep dark crevasse” sort of conversation. Without scaring him silly. And then we went on our merry way.
At one point on our second day of hiking – this time in Sunrise – we reached a crest in the trail and stood before the most amazing view. Most people were quietly milling about. Some were taking pictures, others enjoying a water-break. This was the kind of view you could look at for hours and reflect on all of life’s deep issues.
Apparently Henry was doing just that. He sat down on the bench next to a woman and started in on a conversation as only Henry can. I was certain it would be the typical “Hi, my name is Henry, and this is my little brother Charlie…” sort of conversation. Not so much.
“People die all of the time.”
I almost spit out the water I just drank. One woman standing off to the side did just that and kept on laughing.
“Yeah, someone can just wave a magic wand and ‘poof’ you disappear.”
I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to. I tried to stop laughing, while also balancing the roles of responsible/mortified/shocked mom. The woman next to Henry just stared at him, but others around us were definitely trying to listen into this “deep thoughts by a three-year-old” conversation.
“Henry, what are you talking about?”
“You know mom, people die all the time. They disappear and you never see them again.”
Clearly our earlier conversation had an impact – just not in the way we imagined. Things got lost in the translation between parent and child.
At another peak we were taking a break and snapping a few photos. A woman and her elderly mother glanced my direction and noticed that I was carrying Charlie.
“Oh, what a cute little baby. He is so little. He must be only a few months old.”
Alex and I exchanged knowing glances…you see, Charlie is little, very little. Most assume he is only six months old or so. And when I’m wearing him in the Ergo carrier (especially when he is sleeping, like he was at the time) he looks all of four months…(though in this photo he was awake.)
“Charlie will be one year a week from today.”
This captured the attention of the husband of the group.
“Well don’t you feed him anything?”
“Um, yeah, he’s just small.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, we went on to have a nice conversation with these people. Their intentions were good, and they were truly interested in Charlie.
Here is the interesting part – I never told them why Charlie is so small. I’m not embarrassed or afraid of what others may think, say, or how they might even respond. I just want them to focus on Charlie. How cute he is. To only see his infectious smile. His bright blue eyes and wispy strawberry blonde hair. To focus on all of the ways that he is a baby – just like any other baby, and not some of the ways that he may be different.
Often I try to skirt the issue about his age. Yet just as many times I openly discuss the fact that Charlie has Down syndrome. I have come to realize that one year into our new journey, what used to be such an issue (an all-consuming issue) has also become a non-issue. And that feels good.
But rest assured – I do feed my baby.