Heartbreak of Parenting, Pt. 1

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I am having difficulty lately accepting the fact that my son is going to be 14.  He is a freshman in high school, has a nice group of guy friends and hobbies I don’t understand.

Oh, and he has an official girlfriend.

As you can imagine, my thoughts race to my freshman year in high school, and I begin to reflect on all of the debauchery I was a part of.  I smoked cigarettes with my friends, swore a ton, kissed and made out with boys and lied and hid things from my parents.  These were not horrible, and certainly were typical of my age, but when I try to picture my son in all of these situations, I freeze mentally.  Could my son be doing these exact things under my nose?

The truth is, with the exception of swearing with friends, he isn’t.  As a matter of fact, he is going real well for his age.  He is growing up and going things very typical of a teenage boy.

And that is where my heart breaks.

I will be turning 40 in just under five months, and that is a lot to comprehend.  That compounded with watching my son mature, it forces me to cherish the little things that happen with him.  The time that he holds on longer than I do in a hug, when he thinks something I say is funny, when he wants to share that story about his friend with me.  I’m Mom, so I am already uncool to the boys, so I will take any morsel of attention or information I can get!

I feel as though this has all happened so fast.  One minute he needed me for everything, and now he knows everything and handles everything on his own.  I do still inch my way in to see if everything is all right and ask if he needs anything, but now the problems will be going to Dad.  Dad is cool.  Dad knows it all.

And that is ok.

My husband is a wonderful role model for my son.  There is not one character trait that he possesses that I think, “Man, I hope he doesn’t do THAT when he is older!”.  My husband has schooled my son on the ways of boyhood, sex, girls and life.  That makes it a little easier for me to handle being put in the corner.

I am watching people have babies, celebrating all of those firsts, and I am counting my lasts with my son.  Granted, there are a lot of firsts yet to be celebrated, but those baby/childhood firsts are over.  I mourn that and long for my own youth.  Watching him makes me long for those days of self-discovery. It is when I met my husband, after all 🙂

Driving home from work yesterday, this song came on my radio and it immediately tugged at my heart.  Though I was not unhappy about finding out I was pregnant (like the beginning of this song says), the premise of “There Goes My Life” is the same.  I need to find me before I lose him. ❤  I love him with all I am and all I have.

Fathers

I am sure that there are a lot of “ode to my father” posts going on today, but this one is different.

See, I never had a constant father figure in my life from birth until now.  I have had shitty experiences with father figures.  Let me explain:

 

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Oh yes.  A dad IS a daughter’s first love, at least that is the case with me.  I loved my biological father, with all my heart and soul.  I still do.  Growing up, he was tenderness, strength and laughter to me.  This was in my first four years of life, prior to my parents divorcing.  Even after the divorce, I still had a place in my heart for him.  A place in my heart even when he didn’t come to visit, when he showed up at birthday parties and only stayed for ten minutes because of the tension in the room when he arrived, when he only called (drunk) to talk to my mom because he seemed to miss her more than me.  Even after he said I couldn’t visit anymore because of his new wife and her attitude problem.  I loved him, cried for him, let the ghost of him ruin a piece of me, but I loved him.  Even when he looked me in my eyes, drunk and near death in a hospital bed after I saved him, and said “You should have let me die”, I still loved him.  Just in a different way.  From a distance.  Long distance.  Letter after letter, call after call, I would tell him off, hoping that it would shake him awake and say, “What am I doing to my daughter?!”  But it never did.  So I lived with that.

About five years ago I got a phone call on my birthday from my father, whom I have not heard from for years prior to that.  He was sober, apologetic and wanting to bury the hatchet and connect.  Thank God I did because I finally have a relationship with my father.  Granted, it is over the phone and texting; he seems apprehensive about seeing me, and that is all right.  I know that is his own issue, not mine.  All I know is that I hear from him than I do my own mother.  Funny how times have changed.

My stepfather entered my life at five years old.  He was a man my mother dated, who ended up moving in with us, and suddenly there was a male presence to answer to.  My mother made it clear that we here HER kids, but that never seemed to stop her from going to him when she thought we needed discipline.  I was struggling with the connection with my own father and never awarded my step father that title; I always called him by his first name.  After years went by, I began to love him like a father.  He was a quiet force in my life, always sitting in the background but knew everything that was happening.  We had fun, and I did learn a lot from him.  We fought a lot too within the past five years.  When I moved away from my hometown a year and a half ago, I never thought that six weeks later I would be flying home to bury him.  I was sad for the time we missed and the lack of connection we should have had when I was younger.  But, no matter how much I denied it, my biological father had my heart, and it was difficult to take away.  Though my step father walked me down the aisle and greeted my son when he was born, there seemed to be something missing.  But I always knew he loved me, even though he was quiet about it.  And I loved him.

I see other fathers in my life, from my father-in-law, to my brothers-in-law, to my friends husbands, to my own husband, and I watch how they are with their children.  They all have a different way of handling, disciplining and loving their children.  I wish in my lifetime I could say I had a constant of any of that.

But I get to see my husband father my son.  I watch him and how he explains things to him, how they are connected and how hard they love one another, and I am so proud of him.  My son is the luckiest child on earth for having my husband as his father, and I am the luckiest woman in the world having him as my husband.  God has blessed me with that, and I am truly grateful for it.

So yeah, I may not have had the solid “father figure” in my life, but I certainly learned lessons from all the men in my life.  I miss my step father and it is sad that I don’t have to buy cards or call him anymore.  And every time my phone dings with the notice of a text from my father, I smile.  I am loved, and always was.

Happy Fathers Day to all the fathers out there, step, grand, biological, adoptive, foster, single mom or otherwise.  Love hard.  Your kids will thank you for it.

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Evolution of Parenting Part One: Losses Are Really Victories

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Writing 101, Day Four: The Serial Killer

Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.  Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.  

*Does not have to be a depressing account of loss

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When my husband and I were dreaming up our lives together, we thought about what kind of home we would have, jobs we would work and how many children we would have.  One boy, one girl (because that can be worked out, you know lol), one a hockey player, one a writer/teacher, both with degrees and would be rich and take care of us in our old age.  Sounds like the perfect scenario, doesn’t it?  Ah, the joys of blissful ignorance!

So, in our quest for the Norman Rockwell experience, we got married right after we both had at least one college degree.  YAY!  Perfect!  Because we were together for so long prior to our wedding, we decided to ditch the birth control and go forth with procreation.  Why not?  We have jobs, are married, and are responsible adults now!  Let’s go for it!

Thirteen months after that conversation, our son was born and we could not be happier!  He took his time coming into the world, but he made it!  As an infant, he was the cutest baby I had ever seen with fingernails like Freddy Kruger.  Even his first photo in the hospital looks as though he is beginning a Wolverine-esque pose, fingers stretched wide, nails facing the camera, ready to fight.

Ever since he was born, he has taught me some big lessons in life.  When he was three, a daycare provider encouraged us to have him evaluated for some concerns they had for him.  At first, we found out that he was having sensory issues, and we went forth with the proper appointments and therapies that would allow him to become a more relaxed and worldly kiddo.

In pre-k, two months before Nathan was to transition into Elementary school, his teacher called me at 8pm to discuss some other concerns she believed he was having.  She encouraged us to have him evaluated as soon as possible for a possible Aspergers Syndrome diagnosis.  This rocked my world.  Aspergers Syndrome? What?!  Then you take your concerns to the internet and see a barrage of words thrown at you that make you freeze with fright: autism, high functioning, low incidence, fits, night terrors, loneliness, withdrawal, solitary, lack of empathy etc.  It was an overwhelming experience for my husband and I, navigating through the bureaucracy that would allow our son to have the services he needed and still maintain a level of “normalcy” to his life.  The years would test him, and we were right there along for the ride.  I am proud to say that my son is currently a thirteen year old, eighth grader who is moving into high school next year!  Oh how far we have come!

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Approximately ten years ago, my husband and I entertained having another child.  That was what our dream was, remember?!  Because of our son’s diagnosis and then therapies and attention he needed, we had to make that decision: do we want to have another child?  We agonized over this decision for a while.  In researching the probability of having another child with these kinds of struggles, we found that it was 50% likely that our next child would be on the Autistic Spectrum, and would possibly be lower functioning than our son.  Wow, 50% is a huge gamble!  So, after soul-searching, weighing what would be in our son and family’s best interest, we decided to only have one child.  Our logic was not to take anything away from our first-born, if for some reason he needed more attention or had additional challenges as he grew older.  It would not have been fair to him, to us as his parents, or to the new little bundle we would bring into the fold.  So, a family of three it was!

 

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Having one child has its benefits.  You don’t have to have multiple children’s birthday parties, only have one child to buy for at holiday time, only have to worry about his needs and not spreading yourself thin between two or more children and wonder if you are doing them a disservice.  (Well, as a mother you worry about that no matter how many children you have!)  But, the drawbacks as parents is that every first experience that your child has, is the last you will experience as a parent.  Every celebration can cause immediate nostalgia of the years past.  Transitions into higher grade levels, and phases of maturity are heartbreaking (at least they are to me).  Every little thing that happens to your child is a BIG thing, even if it is small in actuality.  There is no “trial” older child to test methods of parenting on, before lightening up on the younger siblings.  You have to do it and do it right the first time.  No second chances, no take backs.  Just do it right.

I am blessed in that God allowed my family to have our son, and I am thankful for that every single day of my life.  It is heartbreaking to hear stories of infertile women who have nothing but love to give, but cannot conceive.  I know how blessed I am.  But I cannot help but feel heartbroken immediately after the celebrations of my son’s successes.  This is it, I think.  This is the last time I will have a child that…. or, no more school parties, no more PTA, no more cuddles.  It is as though I am having empty nest syndrome every time he does something independently.  Lately, his voice has deepened, his  mustache darkened, his jokes are witty and his gait more stoic.   I miss my baby, but celebrate my young man.

 

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I feel a loss of time faster with one child.  Like I am that much closer to retirement and he from having children of his own.  About a year ago, I have begun taking the steps to slow down my thought process and not see these wonderful events as losses, but to see them as the beautiful things that they are.  My son is becoming more and more independent, when originally I read he wouldn’t be.  I never thought he could drive, own a cell phone or even have a clock in his bedroom.  Now, I don’t remember what those worries felt like.  Those are the losses I should concentrate on: the losses of stigma’s past; stereotypes of A.S. that he does not possess, and concentrate on those that still need guidance.  Celebrate him, live in his world while he is still under my roof and wants me there.  Breathe and take it slow – time has already passed way to quick.

So, I no longer mourn the loss of the baby, but instead I am celebrating my young man and the lengths he has come into young adulthood.  Yes, I will shed tears of joy and nostalgia once in a while, but I no longer see the time as lost.  I see the time past as victories won.

My son, the winner.

 

 

 

Teacher Appreciation Week

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This week was Teacher Appreciation Week here in Virginia. Students, Administration and Parents everywhere said a collective ‘Thank You’ to the educators in their individual schools.

I work for a Charter School for Intellectually Disabled children, and our teachers and staff work so hard. We are the first program of its kind in the country, and I am proud to say I am affiliated with it! Though we are small, we are a family. Because a lot of our students are non-verbal and cannot write their names too well, I thought it would be nice to use the puns, and then have the students hand out the gifts to the teachers. They loved it and they understood the act of giving, and that warmed my heart. I wanted to make sure that our teachers knew that they were appreciated for all of their hard work, despite the challenges they face each and every day.

Teaching is a job that requires many skills because you wear multiple hats. They are educators who teach, a mother (or father) for those that cry, a secretary for all those communications home, a psychologist for all those students that need a little extra understanding, an advocate for those that cannot advocate for themselves, a nurse for the scrapes and bumps, a disciplinarian for those that need a kick in the ass…the list goes on and on. It is one of the most underpaid and most essential jobs in this country, so thank you teachers!!

I am cheesy and love the giving to people, so this entire week the teachers at my school received a token of appreciation, each with a saying with a pun to go along with it. I did take from ideas I saw on Pinterest (as usual). We have two teachers, two instructional assistants and two one on one aides, and each of them received a token every day this week. The principal topped off the week with lunch just for teachers!

Here is what they received:

MONDAY

Cookies in a Jar

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This was such a cute idea, and I love the pun about being, “Smart Cookies”. My only problem with this was I baked the cookies a bit too big and had to break some to fit in the Ball jar. It was all right because it all tasted the same; the feedback I received was that they were delicious!

 

TUESDAY

“Nuts” About Our Teachers

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I liked using this idea for a couple of reasons: (1) It was something that they could grab and eat on the fly, and our teachers are always on the go! (2) It stepped away from candy and sweet treats, offering some protein (albeit salted) to their diets! It was a little pick-me-up!

 

WEDNESDAY

Just “Write” for our school!

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I am a self-diagnosed school supply hoarder. I LOVE pens and notebooks and all that is school supplies! I chose the pen for that reason, and because teachers are always looking for a pen! I thought this would be a cute idea. Instead of saying they were just “write” as a teacher, I thought it was a good idea to say they were “write” for our school, considering this is the first year for us. It went over well!

 

THURSDAY

“Extra” Work

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Thank goodness that Extra gum exists. I have used this product in a couple of different ways in gifts for others. I loved this because ALL teachers go above and beyond their job descriptions in some way. It should be recognized!

FRIDAY

What’s Your Superpower?

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The principal was buying lunch for teachers on this day, so I wanted to give them something that had longevity and that could commemorate the week past. So, when I saw this meme online, I saved it, expanded and printed it to frame. I colored in the apple, however, to make it pop among all of the black and white. We have more male teachers than female at the moment and I wanted to give something that was not too girly. A card accompanied it signed by all of the students, some with assistance.

 

All of these things were very inexpensive to do and the smiles of the recipients were priceless. Thank you to all of our teachers, especially the ones that taught me, for all that you do!!

Did you have a teacher that impacted your education in a positive way?

There Goes My Baby

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Yesterday, my thirteen year old son had his annual physical. This was the first one I did not take him to in all his life. I believe it was a good thing because he needed his Dad there to help him talk about boy things with his doctor. My son was happy to report to me via text message that he was 5’4”. Not only did that mean that he grew 3 inches, but that meant that he was now officially two inches taller than me. There is a running joke going around my house about my son’s height and when he reached the goal of being taller than me, that I can still take him out at the knees if I have to. We laugh about it every time that is mentioned. He also has had a visible mustache for over a year now, and it is becoming more prominent as the days go by. Reflecting on all of these things on my drive to work this morning made me sad.

 

I remember being pregnant at 25 yrs old and gathering all of my ideas of how I thought my little slugger would be, setting goals for him while he was still in my womb. When my husband and I found out that we were having a boy, we immediately said, “Our son is going to be on hockey skates at 3 yrs old!” Being avid hockey fans, this dream was the first we had for him. I also believed that he would play the guitar and love reading; just what girls like, the strong and sensitive type. I couldn’t wait for my husband to teach our son all he knew and watch him do fatherly things with him. Warm thoughts of family time and lots of hugs – that was my idea of family.

 

Right when my son was about to come into the world, I realized that this boy had an agenda all his own, and he was going to tell me so right from the beginning. He decided to flip in my womb right as we were going to deliver and I had to have an emergency c-section, after an hour and a half of pushing on and off. He decided he was going to make a grand entrance, and that he did.

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Throughout his thirteen years he has given me a run for my money. He didn’t become our hockey playing, guitar strumming reader, oh no. He became a golf playing, trombone blowing techie, that also likes to read. All of these things, aside from reading, I knew nothing about, but I certainly have had a great time learning about them! He taught me the art of having unwavering patience, all of the attributes of his Beyblades, what Aspergers Syndrome was and how to live life with more awareness. He is a tell-it-like-it-is teen that has a strong moral compass and a sense of humor like his father.

 

But I still want him to shave his mustache.

 

I miss rocking him as a baby. I miss singing songs and reading, “I’ll Love You All The Time”. I miss Blues Clues and Bear in the Big Blue House and songs about going potty. I miss tiny shoes, overalls and onesies. I miss ABC’s, fantasies about Santa, first friends and his young laugh. I miss my baby.

 

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Through all of this reminiscing, however, I am proud of the young man that he has become. I love listening to his opinions and stories about school laughs with his buddies. I listen to the math tales and shake my head because I do not understand a lick of it, but he loves it. We can trust him giving him some freedoms that come with his teenage status. The worries I had for him as a small child have given way to the worries of a young adult: internet dangers, puppy love and puberty. And that is all right because it means he is growing up, even though I miss the younger years.

 

So, he can taunt me all he wants with his height, talk back and throw around that teenage attitude. That’s ok. I know that my heart is forever intertwined with his, and no matter how tall he gets, that will never change.

 

I love you, buddy.

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