Monday, October 6, 2014

Dearest Finn, There will be pain

My dear, sweet Finn,

You were nearly a year when Rhino squirmed his way into our life.  We smiled at that small, green blanket with its rhinoceros head, but we didn't know.  We didn't realize that one day Rhino would feel like family.  That he'd be just as much a part of you as your green eyes, or that beautiful head of white-blonde hair.  

You took to him right away, and as soon as you could walk Rhino went everywhere with you.  We could track your progress through the house just by the sound of his rattling head.

When we moved to Budapest, Rhino became like another limb.  We quickly dismissed our not-out-of-the-house rule.  You had lost so much, and it was clear you needed him.  So wherever we went, Rhino went also.

But you couldn't think about Rhino all the time.  So, far too frequently, he got left behind.  You would cry and your daddy would trudge back out of the car, scouring malls or Ikea or vast parking lots, searching for your soft, green love.  He'd carry a picture, because we could hardly say hello, so "we're looking for a small, green rhinoceros" was out of the question.

But somehow, oftentimes miraculously, we always found him.  And you'd snuggle him against your face, even with the pungent smell that often surrounded him.

Over time Rhino grew slightly less important.  But he was always there.  Always.  Waiting to soak up your tears and snuggle you to sleep.

When we truly lost him for the first time my heart ached, and as I held you while you cried a tear may have slipped from my eye as well.  He was such a faithful friend.

But it turned out they kept him for you at the airport.  And when we came back through three weeks later we not only found him again, but he was cleaner than ever.  In fact, he looked brand new.  "They must give good baths at the airport," we said, and you smiled and held him close.

When Benjamin was born you found him multiple, Rhino-like blankets.  But in the end you knew only one would do.  So, after a few months, you proudly handed over Rhino, and I asked a million times if you were sure, because I wasn't ready for you to let go.

But a few weeks later you left for your first day of school, so you needed him back.  I think Benjamin understood.  We never talked about it again.

Rhino mostly hangs out in your bed now.  He comes to school sometimes, but stays home more often than not.

You told me tonight your little pal at school doesn't want to be friends anymore.  That he runs away from you at recess, and moves when you sit next to him at lunch.  He has another friend now, and I can see that it's breaking your heart.

As you cried in my arms I looked over at Rhino, pushed to the corner of your bed.  And I realized there are some hurts he can't help anymore.

You're turning five, and there's so much joy ahead of you.  But also, there's pain.  There's pain that Rhino can't ease.  And, as you're finding, there's pain your mom can't erase with a small kiss and a giant hug.

But I hope you remember there's another side to that pain.  And that, someday, sometime, you'll come out on it.  And you'll be met there by the people who love you most, the ones who were with you all the time.  Even if we were shoved in the corner.  Even if you didn't once think about us there.

Some people say we go through hard times to make us stronger.  Your dad said it tonight, as I fretted over you in the kitchen.  But I'm not sure.  Something about that idea doesn't feel right to me.

I wonder if, maybe, we're not meant to get stronger.  I wonder if life does just the opposite to us.  That instead of getting stronger, we get weaker.

And the weaker we get, the more we realize we can't do it alone.  The more we understand that we need each other, and a God who loves us, and a Rhino waiting patiently in the corner for someone to look his way.

You'll have more Rhinos one day.  Ones who love you for who you are.  Who won't turn away from you.  But for now you have us.  You have Dad and I, Aiden and Benjamin.  You have your grandparents, your aunts and uncles.  You have God.

It's a good start, I think.

You're a middle child, and as such are always fighting to get your way.  You're scared that life won't end up fair.  That, in the end, you'll be forgotten.

But I'm sitting here now beside your small, sleeping body.  I'm not sure why, except that I want to protect you.  To guard you from pain and heartache.  And somehow it feels better to have you close.  To know, for now at least, I'm the only one who can touch you.

So I can tell you, you won't be forgotten.  Even if you feel small in the rest of this world, you're big here.  To us, you're giant.  And you won't be overlooked.  Ever.

Happy fifth birthday sweet Finn.

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