The day my son was born I had a sensation I never had experienced before and would not again until last week. Like my pregnancy with his sister, I had been induced. Shortly after my doctor had examined me and left, I asked the nurse “Did he say I could push?” her response was “No, he needs to be here.” and explained he had returned to his office across the street. With my daughter I had never had the urge to push and had to be coached through it by the doctor and nurse. Now, I suddenly found myself overcome with the desire and told her she needed to summon my doctor immediately. She said “Don’t push until you see the whites of his eyes.”. My response between panting was “His eyes better get here soon!” . The best way to describe to someone what this felt like was having the worst case of stomach flu and being told “The bathroom will be available in a half hour.” You simply know that will not work.
The doctor made a speedy return and the team swung into action telling me when to push, when to breathe and then in what I consider to be the most comical part of the delivery, the doctor said “The head is huge.” and my husband concurred and I somewhat angrily and unamused (at the time) said “I KNOW!!!!”. I followed the continuous coaching of being told when to breathe, when to push and when to stop. It only took about three pushes and then I was given the news that it was a boy! I held him briefly before he was whisked away. I then experienced the odd sensation that I wanted to continue to be instructed as to when to push and when to breathe and when to stop. It had all happened so quickly, it was as though I needed further guidance. I had experienced no such confusion when my daughter was born. It was as though I needed further confirmation that what I was doing was the right thing.
My husband left the room to find out where the nurse had taken our new family member and I was left alone to simply breathe in and out on my own without being told to by anyone, much like I had been doing the previous 31 years of my life. When my husband returned his eyes were scared and he told me “There is something wrong with him but they aren’t telling me what.”. So I swung my legs over the side of the bed and waddled to the nursery where my 8 pound plus newborn dwarfed the tiny newbies hooked up to wires and monitors. To my untrained eye, he looked fine to me. A visibly pregnant doctor in a lab coat turned around as I looked down at my son and she said “He was born just a half hour ago.” I responded “I know, I was there.” and her eyes grew wide and she called for a wheel chair and asked why I was up. I told her that my husband couldn’t find out what was wrong with him so I had come to see for myself. She told me that he was perfectly healthy but was getting some sugar, as bigger babies sometimes deplete their supply during the delivery. Everything was fine, those are the words all parents want to hear about their kids. It begins with the first prenatal sound of the heartbeat, continues with the ultrasound and goes on and on through every pediatrician visit and school conference.
In most cases there is very little a parent knows about their child before they are born. My husband and I didn’t want to know the gender of either of our babies before their birth, comparing it to unwrapping and rewrapping Christmas gifts before Christmas morning. After finding out their gender, height and weight, other things are revealed to you like hair color (not much with either of ours), eye color (both of ours have stunning blue eyes) and later their disposition. As time passes more aspects of who they are become apparent. Our son was two when we discovered he was allergic to cats. It wasn’t until third grade we learned he was dyslexic. Between those ages it was apparent he liked Barbies, enjoyed dress-up and could create fashions on a sheet of paper that when cutout were perfect three-dimensional articles of doll-sized clothing. He liked music and loved to dance. He was very social and loved babies.
He has a love for history, the Faberge Eggs led to his interest in Royalty from the Russian Czars to the British thrown. He is fascinated by the Kennedy era of politics. He likes pop culture, runway fashion and most any movie with Leo DiCaprio in it. I knew none of these things about him when I carried him or in those early hours as I held him in the hospital.
As he has grown older it’s become clear how compassionate he is; growing his hair during the entire year he was ten to raise money for childhood cancer research to have it shaved for the St. Baldericks organization and donating the hair to Locks of Love, running the blood drives at his high school for three years, participating in the Box City Vigil (staying overnight on the lawn of the Capital in boxes) to raise awareness of homeless youth. Participating in (and winning) the Mr. AXO man pageant, a sorority event that kicks off Domestic Violence Awareness week. I recall in middle school him coming home and telling me about a classmate who had been molested by her uncle and his resulting deportation. When I asked if the other kids were understanding of her situation he told me that none of the other kids knew, she had only told him. Over the years he has often been the understanding confidante to his peers.
From pre-school on there has always been a girl(s) with a crush on him. During school open house in elementary school we were often asked “Are you Eddie’s parents?” then were told “We hear a lot about Eddie at our house.” only to walk ten feet down the hallway and have another set of parents say the same thing. His social calendar was filled with five proms, numerous Sadie Hawkins day dances and twenty-four formals and semi-formals filled his college weekends.
His natural ability to lead people and organizations had him holding offices in student government, show choir and serving two years as a theater captain. His energy and natural gifts lit up the stage at dance recitals, theater productions and show choir competitions. College saw him step away from performance but serving on his campus Activity Board and as a class senator in Student Government, then as the treasurer and eventually as President for his senior year. Joining a fraternity rounded out his “free time” alongside his jobs in offices on campus and academics that garnered him a major in Business Management and minors in Economics, Studio Arts and Religion in four years.
Currently he is in grad school, living in a house with five guys and working on a Masters in Business Design and Innovation. His boundless creativity, time management and circle of friends have seen him accomplish more in 22 years than many do in a lifetime. His father and I are proud of both he and his sister for the people they have grown to be.
Over the years we have frequently been told what a great job we have done raising our kids and my response has been “We can’t take much credit for it. They come to you prewired and you can either support them in their interests and guide them or you can force your own plans on them and make them miserable.” My other sage parenting advice is “Don’t treat your children equally, treat them equitably, as they need different things.” I describe my daughter’s youth as being “linear”, she liked to participate in one activity at a time and valued her free-time for reading, art and time with pets. While she participated in athletics, she did not like when seasons overlapped. More of an introvert (like her father) she often needed a nudge to socialize. My son on the other hand could go from squeezing in an extra class prior to the start of a school day to returning from rehearsals after 10:00 pm, followed by homework and springing out of bed the next day to decorate for Homecoming and emceeing the event. If we had told him “Your sister did one activity at a time, you need to choose between dance lessens, theater, show choir and student government.” it would have crushed him and not allowed for him to reach his full potential. An example of the equal/equitable is their 17th birthday gifts, our daughter received a set of pens for her art interests, our son a used car. Our daughter is still using the markers (also had a Studio Arts minor) and never got her driver’s license until after completing college. I needed my son to have a car after years of drop-offs and pickups at strange hours. Same goes for a cell phone, he had one first because it was a necessity before it ever became a priority to our daughter.
Since going off to college texting has been the primary form of communication with both of my kids. As a Mom I relish the occasional phone call, even when it’s just for information to complete the FAFSA. There was the call that he’d been elected President, the call that he was part of the Homecoming court during his senior year and a couple of weeks ago there was a Friday night call to say that he had gone to watch Elizabeth Smart speak on campus. He told me that as he listened to her account of abduction, abuse and eventual return to her family that he was reminded of what his father had told he and his sister repeatedly when they were kids “If someone ever takes you, know that we will never stop looking for you. If someone tells you that we don’t care about you or have forgotten about you, that it is not true. No matter what, we will never stop looking and we will find you.”. He went on to say that he was looking to volunteer with an organization in the community that works against sex-trafficking and the sex trade. As Minnesotans and newlyweds when Jacob Wetterling was abducted, we intentionally raised our kids with an awareness that not everyone is kind and well-intentioned. When I hung up the phone and told my husband about our conversation it was confirmation that our kids carried with them the message repeated in innumerable ways since birth, that they were loved no matter what.
Last week while I was at my best friend’s cabin, my husband was on a business trip in Georgia and my daughter was planning for a road trip with her roommate, my son sent a group text. In the brief message he let us know he was “coming out” and thanked us for raising him in a household where he knows he has our love and support no matter what. For a brief moment I was overwhelmed with the sensation that I had only previously experienced on the day he was born. I wanted someone to tell me to breathe or push or stop. Then the exact same thing happened, I just kept breathing on my own. It swept over me with the realization that this was simply another aspect of who he is being revealed and confirmed. Like a cat allergy or dyslexia, something that I had once not known that I was now aware of. An aspect of life figured out.
Other thoughts on parenting my adults can be found in previous blogs: https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/i-suppose-we-all-have-to-grow-up-sometime-im-getting-there