I was chatting with another Mom to a child who will not outlive her. It is a difficult awareness that we live each day. A difficulty that is not without its own gifts for we who live it.
I think one thing about our kids:
It won’t always comfort us, but their strength through all this adversity, their joy, their sweetness, their ability to draw people into our lives who understand- who love us & them- that legacy will stay with us when we no longer have them with us physically. YOU, other parents of children LIKE mine & different from mine… it’s a gift my children have provided that will outlive them.
Bittersweet gift, but a gift for which I will forever be thankful.
My kids’ genetic material is being sequenced to try to determine which type of metabolic disease they carry that may ravage their body and take them before they experience their 40s… or 30s… or 20s. One 7 year old and my 5.5 year old are affected in some way, the SAME way, a RARE way, as 1 other child at our local children’s hospital and 2 known adults “AT the NIH”- not a location for the healthy.
If we choose “best case scenario”, 7 is just under the 1/3 mark of a lifetime with one of these diseases. And if it’s not…
I bought them roller skates. They’re uncoordinated; they have low stamina/exercise tolerance. And a close relative asked “Why would you buy them roller skates?” They are likely to develop seizures and regress cognitively & physically. But they don’t have them yet.
When she asked “why”, I realized again how little others understand of this life. They watch. They try to support. They have absolutely no clue whatever.
I see my 7 year old and think: if he understood, what would he want to do while still able? What “fun” would he want, should he want? If he knew what he could wish for before it’s beyond his capacity to wish, to accomplish?
When I was a kid, my Dad was in the Army reserves. 2 weeks every summer he went to a base for “active duty” & always brought back something for each of us. One summer that ‘something’ was roller skates. I still remember the feel, the fun, the risk of life & limb at the top of our treacherous driveway…
That experience is something I want for him. Sure, roller skating will be work for him, and for her. But practice will bring success and success will bring fun. And “FUN” is the bucket list of childhood.
Every day we struggle financially. Each day can be a physical marathon. But everyday I look at my Fearsome 3some and my college-attending teen, I know how lucky I am.
My oldest arrived at a time that may have been “less than ideal”: I was between Grad School Graduation & my first job in a new city- Philadelphia. I signed up to be a control on a “Core Temperature in Depression” study, recruiting non-pregnant females for $75 to swallow a silicone bean & wear a monitor. Imagine my 24-year old surprise! It was a roller-coaster but the answer to my dream of becoming a mother.
My son’s arrival was a flurry of NICU docs, worried nurses & labor-enhancing drugs. He arrived via vacu-assist (appropriate give his surname) and blinked at everyone like: What’s all the fuss? I’m fine. Parenting him was easy & carefree as I look back- but seemed every bit the struggle of every parent as I went through.
When he was 12 years old, my other mothering wish came true: he would have siblings, a brother & a sister, and they would join us in a new home I was able to purchase. His big heart and caring nature were so evident as soon as his brother & sister arrived. When his youngest sister came home, his heart swelled even more. It was amazing to watch & I could not ask for a more clear indication of parenting “success”.
The twins & my youngest may struggle with medical needs, feeding & energy but make up for it in the breadth of their capacity to love, endure & enjoy. They wake each day & immediately check-in with each other. Any separation (like taking my youngest with me to the grocery when a nurse is here with the twins) is predicated with a group hug & concludes with a reunion worthy of a Disney production.
Right now they are sitting at the kitchen table drawing plans for a Leprechaun Trap and sharing their ideas with each other. Yes, there is bickering over who has the box of crayons, which idea is best for the trap, what a Leprechaun will do if they don’t wear green… But most of the interaction is give & take of ideas, punctuated with positive encouragement of “that’s a good idea!”
Medical needs aside, I may be the luckiest mother in America.
(See what 4.5 hours of sleep does for a person?!)
Another milestone: 7 years old. Sometimes in this life, you forget time keeps marching. Sometimes you feel like you won’t make it through. But then you arrive: 7 amazing years!
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu
OK. Maybe not laundry, or vacuuming…