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My little Nico.

Every day, all winter long, lost in my head during my four-mile walk, from pretty far away, something would nudge me, I’d look up, and there Nico would be. Staring. Watching my every move. Waiting for me to come closer.

The second our eyes locked, he’d pretend this wasn’t true.

My typical response to anyone who is drawn to my light is to embrace them wildly. Passionately hug, kiss, and squeal my hello. Sensing that would be too much for this kid, I dug deep and acted like an adult for a change. Held back until Nico was ready.

Eventually, came the briefest wave. But then he’d quickly look away, as if the encounter didn’t mean anything. And yet I knew that it did. To him. And to me.

As winter wore on, the wave was accompanied by a smile. And then a hello was added. With a bit more time, it was all that, plus a few words more.

I love being around children.

Nothing brings me more joy than listening to their thoughts. Hearing their laughter. Seeing their outright confusion as they try to make sense of the world. Likely, because I’m still on their level. I resonate with kids better than people my own age.

If a child takes issue with me, I don’t get defensive. Their insight makes me laugh. The accuracy. The growth it elicits. Their ability to stay loving me, despite me being me.

I don’t see my little Nico anymore, and man do I long for him.

Knowing it would be a while, I brought him a copy of my book so he’d have my contact. Said he could text if he wanted, that I’d miss him. We had our longest conversation that day, with him FINALLY professing his love for me, as well as his disappointment that it would be some time before we met again. After I got home, I thought how dumb it was to give him my book. It’s filled with cursing, and yet I gave it to an 11-year-old.

Who cares?

What’s cursing anyways but another form of expression? Expression that society doesn’t view well at the moment. Then again, when have stupid rules ever kept me from doing what is right?

Here’s to you if you love giving yourself to children. If you make sure they know they’re seen, heard, loved, that they matter. For the child you take note of today, you make adult-ready for the future.