Posted by: DD | September 9, 2006

no. 268 – Sensitive Soul

I have always known that X was born with a sensitive soul. That’s how I like to refer to his temperament: easy, laid-back, empathetic. When we would get together with a friend of mine and their son, X appeared to be tranquilized compared to her son who was constantly in motion, squirming, active and sometimes would get so worked up in a crying jag, he’d vomit. Not X. He’s an observer. You could almost imagine he was saying to his friend, via baby-telepathy, "Dude, chill."

I use to think his personality was more like his father’s. I’m realizing he is more and more like me. When he’s exposed to new people, or a group, he hesitates and withdraws. He recently got a bug up his butt and wanted a skateboard, but once we get the board and the gear, he did nothing more than show it to family and friends. He won’t ride it because he’s scared he’ll fall off. The year he turned 3, we bought him a power wheels for Christmas. It wasn’t until fairly late in that subsequent summer that he was actually willing to drive it himself. Until then, he would just sit in it while it was parked in the garage. And if he felt daring, he would have one of us push it outside and there he would sit instead.

While we were outside yesterday I saw a furry caterpillar in some weeds. I picked it up and showed it to X. He watched it crawl on my hand from a safe distance even though I encouraged him to pet it, to touch its furriness. He eventually came to look at it closely, but refused to touch the spiney hairs. I stopped asking and put the caterpillar back in the weeds and we loaded up to run some errands.

I buckled him in his carseat and then climbed up front. Just as I was getting ready to turn the key, X says, "I’m really, really sad, Mommy," and he began to sob, hard and loud. I had no idea what had just come over him and he wouldn’t tell me what he was sad about. I climbed back out of the car and opened up the back door so I can be next to him and again I asked what was the matter.

"I didn’t get to pet the caterpillar and tell him good-bye." My heart broke.

I asked if he wanted to try petting the caterpillar again and he snuffled yes, so I went back into the weeds and hunted for that furry caterpillar until I found it a short distance from where I had left it. I picked it up and brought it back to X, who was still buckled into his car seat. He reached out one finger and hovered over the hairs until finally he felt them, at which point he pulled back. But quickly, and more confidently, he reached up again and stroked the hairs. I asked if he wanted to try holding it. I knew he was afraid to, but I could tell he didn’t want to give up another chance.

I transferred the caterpillar to X’s palm, which elicited a nervous giggle and he told me it tickled. He asked me to take it off his hand so I did, but then he asked to hold it again. We did this transfer a couple more times and X held the caterpillar a little longer each time, until I told him it was time to say goodbye and explained that caterpillar’s family was probably missing him.

He said goodbye and gave it a little wave as he peered at the squirming thing and then I took it and placed it gently back in the weeds.

It scared me a little that his feelings of regret left him a sobbing mess, but I know that he is not a risk taker. He never will be even though he talks of getting a motorcycle and racing cars. Those are things I know he talks about-in part-to make Daddy proud. However I think he will be reserved, cautious and reflective…like his Mommy. I just don’t want him to have the regrets that come with those aspects like I do.



  1. DD

    love this!!

  2. Such a sweet story. I actually love that kids are so in touch with their emotions (not that you want them to be turned into mush from the smallest non-event, but still I think X’s conflicting emotions were, well, sweet).

    It’s a big world out there for little guys, and there’s so much they are supposed to take in.

    Anyway, thanks for the heartwarming post.

  3. Too, too sweet.

    I’m so glad he found the courage to conquer his fear so he wouldn’t have any regrets.

    There’s a lesson to be learned there, I think.

  4. Did we have the same donors that defaulted to make our sons like us? I often say that J didn’t get that risk-taking gene. He is not a Kennedy, but he has such a sensitivity.

    We recently went through a parallel-with-9yo-age-appropriate-progression scenario with a tiger swallowtail. We found it in a parking lot and one wing was torn. The thing seemed really happy for the attention and it crawled all over J’s hand. We all knew it would die sooner rather than later and spoke about it. Of course, J wanted to take it home to care for the butterfly, but I told him he couldn’t. Very directly, I asked if he would rather see it die at our home or just find it a new home there where it lived. Thankfully, he voted for the latter, so we drove to a bushy part of the parking lot and he let it walk into the branches. No tears, just compassion. They amaze me how they understand.

    X is wonderful for his gentleness, but he is primo for being able to put his thoughts into words and doing so before it was too late. And you are an incredible mom for exposing him to the caterpiller and then rooting around for it again.

    I believe he’d fit well with my personal goal for my son: he’ll make a good husband.

  5. Wanna trade? Dotter-S is making me crazy with TTD. Yah, that’s Terrible Two’s Depression. She is a risk-takin’, grab life by the horn kind of child. I am not so much. Mama needs some sedatives… or a stiff drink.
    Ok, so for the record, I really don’t want to trade, obviously. She’s my sugar!

  6. X sounds like such a little sweet heart. He maybe a little cautious, but look how he conquered his own fear and how proud he must be for touching that little caterpillar!

  7. See, it’s moments like that that just make your heart overflow. I’m glad he had the nerve to hold it. My oldest daughter is similar – not a risk taker and pretty reserved until she’s comfortable in a situation. She probably wouldn’t have even tried to touch the caterpillar at that age!

  8. I think that most kids that age are uber-sensitive. Mag would freak out if she so much as saw an ant on the sidewalk.
    We found a caterpiller on the swing set in the beginning of spring and she was ok while I was holding it, then she wanted to hold it. She was all, “Oh, hello widdle cader-puller” with it until it started up her forearm. Then she lost her little mind and did the “OhMyGodTheresABugOnMeDance” while emitting that high pitched screech that only a 3 year old girl can manage. Every dog in the neighborhood started to howl….

  9. The Boy does everything balls to the walls. He has no fear, of activities or of strangers. I wish there was a happy medium. I am still shocked that we’ve had no broken bones.

  10. Oh how sweet! I tell you, children are the most precious gift ever. Even if you only have 1…the moments they give you are ever so…hmmm…invaluable? (that’s not the word i’m looking for but you get the idea)

    **My Anecdote**
    I was in the kitchen doing dishes and decided to put on a classical music CD to listen to. My 5 yr old son walked in put his arms out to me and said “May I?” My heart absolutely melted!! Of course I danced a moment with him and then gave him a big squishy hug. I have no idea where he picked that up from. I’ve noticed that he’s also been frequently insisting “Ladies First” and letting me walk past him to wherever.

  11. X sounds just like my son! My daughter is daring and a risk taker, my son is so much more cautious and a true thinker.

  12. I often wonder how my child will be. Will they be introverted and shy like me or a natural extrovert like Jeff? I hope that they are like Jeff but then I wonder how will I be able to raise an extrovert?

    I think seeing your child for who they are and accepting it is a wonderful thing.

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