Tenderness

I’ve been wearing the same night shirt to bed for a couple years now. Don’t worry- it gets washed routinely! It’s just an over-sized t-shirt that is really comfy.

But a few weeks ago it became obvious that it was time to let the shirt go. It had served me well, surviving many peri-menopausal night sweats and garnering several rips, tears and holes. It’s hard to let go of comfy things, but I knew the time had come.

I surfaced from the bathroom with t-shirt in hand and shared the news with my husband. He knows I get attached to things and understood why this was worthy of an announcement. He agreed with my assessment and I unceremoniously threw the shirt into the kitchen trash.

Fast forward to two nights later. My younger son was still awake as I got ready for bed. The night before he hadn’t seen me, so he noticed that I was in a different night shirt.

He acknowledged the new shirt and asked if I missed the old one.

“Well, yeh, kinda. But this one is nice too.”

“So you don’t want the other one any more?” and from behind his back, he pulled out my ripped up old shirt.

“Wait, how did you get that? Did you pull it out of the garbage?”

With a sly look, “Yes.”

“Well, why?”

“Because I thought you may miss it.”

Holding back tears, “That was so thoughtful. Thank you so much. But, ya know, there are times that even I have to let certain things go.” The metaphor went beyond his understanding, but the words hung in the air as I realized this is a common challenge I face as I allow my kids the space to grow.

“Well, can I keep the shirt? I’ve been sleeping in it.”

“Wait, you pulled it out of the garbage and then you slept in it?”

“Yes.”

Now the tears are flowing. “Can I at least wash it first? It was in the garbage.”

“It was only there for a minute, Mom. And besides, I like it. It smells like you.” I couldn’t decide if that meant I smelled like garbage or if he just pulled it out quick enough that he was indeed smelling me. I went with the latter.

“OK, I won’t wash it.”

Sure enough, when I went to tuck him in that night, I found him in my very large, ripped and tattered, red, v-neck t-shirt, with a wonderfully content look on his face.

A little back story on my younger son. Just a few years ago, he was not at all a good communicator. He has always been a deep thinker and feeler, but didn’t necessarily have the words (or desire) to express what was going on internally. He is also a very dude-like boy; full of male energy and extremely masculine. Certainly out in public, he rarely shows his tender side.

But over the past couple years he has matured, (he’s 9 years old now) becoming much better at communicating. He articulates his thoughts and emotions with clarity and confidence. But he’s still very quiet, sitting back and observing, before making decisions about how he feels about things. In fact, I didn’t even know he was in ear-shot when I had the conversation with my husband about the t-shirt.

But the fact that he heard what I shared and understood what I was feeling to the point that he took the shirt out of the garbage for safe-keeping was a testament to his growth. It also shows a level of empathy that warms my heart. Wearing it to sleep at night, well that plain- old causes me to melt.

So now when I kiss him goodnight and I see him in the oversized t-shirt, I get an extra warm, cozy feeling. It reminds me that even as we let things go, they can stay with us, just maybe in a different form.

This child of ours brings so much joy. He is a tender soul, for sure, and I’m glad he’s willing to allow that part of himself to have a voice, even if it is just with me right now.

So here’s to all the tender boys out there who love their Moms and continue to show us in the sweetest ways. And also to those who’ve now grown into men and learned how to share their tenderness with others. What a blessing you are!

In loving,

Sarah

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