You sort of have to admire anyone—even if it’s a child of just five—who honestly doesn’t care what people think of him. A kid who seeks to simply enjoy himself, not at anyone’s expense, but just from the joy it brings him.
I wish I were more like that.
My son Eric is like that. Last month I spent a week in a vacation cottage with him and his older brother and sister. Guess who had the best time?
It snowed while we were there. A few inches, and then a few inches more. Eric stepped carefully in the snow in his light-up sneakers. It must have felt different under his feet. Crunchy. Cold. When we got to the car he’d wait for me to lift him up so he could kick the car’s tire and get the snow off his shoes before getting in. Every time, without fail. He never forgot his opportunity to kick the car tire.
Indoors, I thought we’d see more of Eric’s Destructo-Man qualities, but he was remarkably gentle with the cottage’s antiques, an unfortunate choice for those who rent to families with children. The sofa pillows proved irresistible, however, and daily I retrieved them from the floor where he’d thrown them, and put them back where they belonged. Sometimes several times a day. His daily mission seemed to be to remove every pillow in sight and ensure it was safely on the floor where it couldn’t attack anyone.
Every night Eric put on a show. I’d help him change out of his clothes into his jammies and we’d all gather to watch him perform his version of martial arts kicks. He holds onto a chair or table and lifts one leg to kick it outward, hard. He doesn’t have the balance to stand upright while kicking but for Eric it’s not having perfect form that makes it fun. It’s joining in to the best of his ability. Admirable, coming from a family of anal perfectionists. Like I said, Eric doesn’t care.
It’s this not-caring that has me convinced that someday Eric will find a new family. One day he’ll just get into the car with some unsuspecting, likely-looking family, and suddenly they’ll have a new member, one who talks a lot in undecipherable syllables while giving helpful Gallic gestures with both hands. One who adores bananas and anything made of carbohydrates. One who drinks water from an open cup, but only two teaspoons full at a time, over and over and over. One whose dream job may someday be to direct traffic, telling people where they need to go, even if they don’t quite know yet themselves.
Eric would be a good addition to any family, maybe to yours. He gives hugs any time he’s asked, using his entire body to hug with abandon. You haven’t really been hugged until you have been hugged by Eric. He also knows everyone’s name (even if he can’t say it in a way you understand), and doesn’t mind always coming in last for every race. The words, “Last one’s a rotten egg!” have no meaning for Eric. He also will eat anything put in front of him, as long as it’s cookies or crackers or pasta or bread. He adores all fruit. And he’ll help carry his plate to the kitchen if you let him, if it isn’t too full of crumbs and if you don’t mind the fact that he doesn’t carry it level to the floor. So what if the fork slides off? Eric sleeps well, too, passing out nightly to spend the night in somnolent bliss, if you don’t mind the snoring. He’ll sleep anywhere, but he likes to have a story read to him first, or at least the first few sentences of a story. He doesn’t even mind if it’s the same story every time.
I won’t tell you about the other parts to Eric, like about the poop. You’ll find that out soon enough, but by then you’ll be smitten, completely taken in by this small entertaining boy who loves everyone equally and who doesn’t mind (or even think about) what they think of him. You’ll be taking that quality into yourself, that not minding, finding that it’s incredibly freeing. The other things? Piece of cake. You take it as a package. You find that those hugs are addictive, and that they change your life.
So if one day there’s an extra small blond head in your rear view mirror as you glance into the back seat, don’t be surprised. It’s just Eric, and he doesn’t make mistakes.