As I was putting Lucas to bed last night, something about him seemed particularly precious to me. It could have been his slightly stuffy nose or his deliciously flushed cheeks, or maybe it was just the way he had wanted me to hold him and slowly dance to the music in the living room minutes before.
I pulled the blanket up under his little chin and told him, "Lucas, you are so loved!" I went on to list all of the many people who love him. From family and friends, to neighbors and employees at grocery stores, Lucas is loved wherever he goes. People stop what they're doing to spend time with him. Strangers give him toys and stickers. He's been tipped for "playing" his guitar at the farmers' market. He has his own engraved, magnetic Trader Joe's nametag, which he wears on every shopping trip. This boy knows nothing if not that he's lovable and important in the world.
I wanted him to know that all this love comes to him not because of anything he's done. I wanted him to know that it's just because he is who he is; nothing more and nothing less. To give myself an opening to share this with him, I asked, "Why do you think you're so loved?"
As I prepared to launch into my mini-lecture on his inherent worth, he gave me his own answer, "Because I love."
Because I love.
His words hit me like a bucket of ice water in the face, but in a good way. I wasn't expecting them, but they woke me up.
Because I love.
What did he mean by that? For Lucas, what does love look like as a verb? It's not what you might think. He's not the most cuddly or angelic of children, to be sure. He can be rough and loud and fiercely independent. He doesn't always share, or listen, or pet the cats gently. So what might loving look like to him? I think what he's talking about is something more subtle than his actions. Maybe it's more an energy of love that he sends out, like an invisible signal that people can't see, but they feel it and respond in kind.
One example that stands out in my mind occurred in the dairy section at Trader Joe's last year. I had parked the cart there while gathering some items nearby, and returned to find a hunched-over, elderly man holding on to the side of our cart while Lucas jabbered on about something – probably how he could drink wine when he was five. (That was a favorite tidbit to share with strangers at that time, thanks to Grandma.) The man was chuckling and smiling ear to ear, asking him questions and leaning in close to hear. I noticed some numbers tattooed on the inside of his forearm, and it struck me that he was a survivor, which was later confirmed by his caregiver. Auschwitz. I have since run across this man and his caregiver many times. In sharp contrast to how I'd first seen him when he was talking with Lucas, he is generally withdrawn and sullen, avoiding eye contact with everyone. Apparently, that exchange with Lucas was an aberration. For that moment, some little light in Lucas helped him forget his otherwise dark experience.
I have often thought that Lucas is here to teach me, rather than the other way around, and the overarching lesson seems to be about love. His love shines out into the world freely and love flows back to him abundantly, and therefore, his view of love is ever-expanding. His sense of himself as lovable and the world as a loving place is confirmed over and over again. The learning for me is that I can find that lovable place within myself, not by doing good deeds or winning approval, but simply by loving more.
I need to put these words all over my house as a reminder. I'll put them on a post-it on my car dashboard, set it as a screensaver on my computer, and paint it on a canvas, maybe with a giant heart.
Because I love.
It's that simple.
NPR ran a story on Wednesday about the link between low serotonin levels and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This is groundbreaking research, but so far, it appears that it will be used to find yet new ways of drugging our babies.
"The team hopes the study will lead to a test that measures a baby's serotonin levels, making it possible to identify children at highest risk for SIDS."
And then what? It's only a short leap to the prescription of serotonin-boosting pharmaceuticals. Prozac anyone?
At no time in the story was it mentioned how serotonin-producing actions on the part of the mother, like skin-to-skin contact or on-demand feeding, might now be further supported by this research to naturally increase serotonin and decrease stress for newborns. I would love to see natural birth and attachment parenting advocates rally together to see that this study gets taken in (what I believe is) the right direction.
What do you think? Is this research finding a boon for natural parenting practices, or will it only further the medical interventions imposed on newborns and their mothers? I'd like to hear what you have to say.