As I drove into work today, I thought about how fast my boys were growing up. It is like all I had to was blink and today came. My older son is 12, going on 20, and the younger one will be four in September. I was telling my older son this morning, M, to help his brother in the bathroom so that he could get a boy’s perspective at potty training. He laughed and said, “You potty trained me and there was no boy’s perspective then.” I had to laugh because he was right. I potty trained him and he did not turn less boy so what was the different in potty training my youngest, E? The potty training idea got me to think about M being that little and how many years have passed since then.
Having a twelve year old and a three year old at home is a challenge. They are different kids at different stages of their youth. That age gap seems so big now but when they are in their twenties and beyond, the age gap will not be as obvious. For now, it allows me to enjoy with E the things I miss about M being little. It also prepares me for E’s preteen years as I am currently going through them with M.
M is nearly a teenager and sometimes, I want to baby him and I stop myself because I know that isn’t what he wants. We are getting pretty close to the teens years and while the idea of him as a teen leads to anxiety, I have faith in him and me that we will get through the teen years and we will come out stronger as a result. He is getting to the point where Mom is not the person he wants to be around but to ease my fears, I remind myself and him that I will always be here whether he wants me around or not. The days of hugging and kissing and being playful are long behind us. I miss those times but as I have told by others who have raised teens, they are never too old for a hug and/or a kiss.
E is three and going a hundred miles a minute. He is smart, funny, and silly. He loves hugs and kisses and he calls me his best friend. I look at him and I see everything I am and I ever will be. He is a like a tiny version of myself. He is going through the big boy stage and he often sleeps in his own bed, I don’t mind when he decides he wants to sleep in my bed. Sometimes he wants to sit my lap or be carried and sometimes, he doesn’t.
As much as my boys drive me crazy, I remind myself that if they were not healthy, they would not be able to do that. I have been fortunate to have been blessed with healthy children and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. Despite everything I have been through, the best thing that God has given me is healthy children and I am lucky. It is okay that I am not rich or even successful in my profession, I have healthy children and I wouldn’t trade that for all the money or success in the world.
Rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia came into my life when I was 32 years old and four years later, everything that I feared turned out to be nothing but fears. I was afraid of disability and I was afraid that I could not be my children’s mother. I fight every day and I keep moving because these are the two things I fear the most. Have RA and fibro changed our lives? Of course they have but I can think of things much worse that make RA and fibro look like small challenges.
Our lives have been definitely challenged. First, it was RA and Fibro. Then, it was huge financial nightmare that has only recently come to resolution. There was also my brother’s cancer diagnosis and his untimely passing. My kids are and were part of all these events and they watched first-hand the effects of these events on my life. Then there were other events such as marital discord that I wish they didn’t have to see. I wished and I continue to wish that I could have protected them from all these events – events that I am fairly certain that my parents would have hid from me.
I remind myself that I am not parents and I made a decision to raise my children differently. I only saw my father cry once in my entire life and the only time I ever saw mom cry was when death and illness were involved. My parents hid their pain, their tears, their disagreements, and their troubles from us. That is what most parents of their generation did and that has not changed. My mom still doesn’t tell us about the issues that affect her unless she needs assistance in dealing with them and if my father were alive, we probably would be in the dark. My kids have an opportunity to see me when I am weak and when I am strong. They get to see my successes and my failures and they get to learn from that. If only parents gave me that gift, it would have my stumbles and falls so much easier to bear. But they choose to protect me to which I am grateful for but even so, I have learned all on my own how to handle life’s challenges.
I know that my boys will not be little forever and every day, I remind myself of this. I also remind myself to treasure every minute of every day with them. Sometimes, when I drop the boys off at daycare, M runs off before I ever have a chance to tell him I love him and that I hope he has a good day. I feel sad that he feels he is too old for Mom’s hugs, kisses and I love you’s and that someday, he will long for the days when he was young and when someone loved him so unconditionally and who wanted to show him daily. When I drop off E, he wants my hugs and kisses but afterwards, he will quickly scurry off to his friends and doesn’t even turn around to see if I am still standing there.
They are growing up faster than I ever imagined and every day, I am taken back by how much older they are getting every day. When my own birthday nears, I don’t think about getting older, I think about their getting older and that makes me sad. I want them to be little but I also welcome high school and college graduations, weddings and grandchildren and while it seems like we are still a long way from all these things, I know by watching my own mother how quickly time creeps up on us. For now, I know that they will not be little forever and I am going to treasure every moment I have with them and I am going to spend every day working on making those moments.