gentle

My 19-month old is confronting the realization that sometimes, when we’re not careful, we can break things that cannot be easily fixed. Like seashells. Paper hearts. And crayons.

“Fix,” he said holding up two pieces of an orange crayola.

I knelt down and showed him how the edges fit back together without a scar if you press them together hard enough. He was delighted. But when I let go the split returned and the halves fell away. And Gabe lost it. I tried taping the crayon around its midsection but that only upset him more.

“Broken!” he sobbed.

I know the feeling. These days I’m glad he is still learning to identify colors and shapes and animals he may never see anywhere but on safari. That he’s in the phase where he wants me to cut purple, yellow, and blue paper hearts and scatter them on the floor. Where he doesn’t know that hearts symbolize love. Where he just wants to read and climb and run and laugh.

Because I can’t tell him how heartsick I am. How I worry every day about the cracks growing apparent in our institutions. How I’m not sure how we can put things back together if they fail. Because there are certain words he doesn’t need to know yet.

Gabe crawled over to our cat BB and stroked his fur. Then he closed his fingers around BB’s tail and yanked. BB meowed pitifully.

“That’s not gentle,” I said pulling Gabe into my lap and rocking him. “We have to be gentle with the people we love. We have to be gentle with the things we love.”

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