Usually when I run my hand over my son’s head, my heart gives a little kick. Sometimes my throat catches. There’s a dip there, a souvenir from six years ago.
Six years ago we were tracking meds and seizures. Lots of both, every day. We had decided on surgery to get rid of the pesky little tumor that announced itself in early September, at his preschool open house. Six years ago we were trying to stay healthy, to be ready for surgery. We were trying to keep perspective.
There are no ongoing medical concerns. The last MRI we had was-again- clear. The pediatric neurosurgeon who follows us said “There continues to be nothing to see. It’s all just fine. Come back in five years.”
And yet. The landscape of our family is forever changed. One doesn’t get handed over to doctor after doctor, needle after needle, “this won’t hurt”, without impact. A 3 year old finds a way to make sense of the fear, the uncertainty, in his own way. He draws his own conclusions. And we started to untangle those a couple of years ago. We may never really finish. This is our landscape.
When I think about that season- that sprint of appointments/meds/MRI’s/opinions/second opinions- the edges are blurry. Some pieces come into sharp focus, but so much is a blur.
I remember holding him in my lap, days before surgery, as he wrestled against another needle. Another blood draw. To see if he was healthy enough for surgery.
I cried into his hair. My chin on his scalp, which was smooth. No dip yet.
You guys. We made it. We no longer have little-little kids. We’ve crossed over.
Here’s how I know:
1.A couple of months ago we were all outside on a Saturday and I went inside to get a drink or use the bathroom or something. I realized that I didn’t have to yell out to my husband to “keep an eye on so-and-so because I am going inside for a minute!”. Nope. Just went inside and peed like it was nothin’. And no one ran into traffic or ate dirt or anything little kid’ish. Crossed over.
2. I can run an errand or two and leave a kid (or two) home alone.
3. When I am the preschool helper at my daughter’s school, I don’t have to pump a bottle for the baby or find a sitter for the toddler or anything. I can just show up because the older three are in school. See: Why We Were Finally Able To Do a Preschool Co-op.
4. I can stain the entire front porch on a Saturday and all of my kids can leave me alone to do it. Three coats. Boom. Crossed over.
My kids are 4, 6, 9, and 10. While I loved my little bitty babies, I cannot for a second say that I miss that stage of life. It is freaking exhausting. And I am not just talking about the newborn sleeplessness. It’s just so physically tiring- all of that buckling and unbuckling and crouching down to eye level and picking kids up and tying shoes…
I love this stage. I think we are in the golden in-between spot. My kids still think I know things and consider me an authority on life, and they can all handle their own bathroom needs without assistance.
“This morning when I had my cereal I patted it down into the milk like Grandma Ruth did.”
This from my oldest, last night at dinner.
I was confused. Milk? Who? Oh. My mom- Nana- but sometimes “Grandma Ruth” because my oldest never knew her. A more formal name, maybe, to remind me/us who she’s talking about?
I had forgotten this little thing my mom used to do. When she said it, a little room in the back of my memory opened up. Yes- she did do that. Patted down the cereal into the milk, with the back of her spoon. Usually a combination of two cereals- one like cardboard and one like cardboard-sweetened-with-honey. (We never got the good cereals.)
“I must have told you that- what- years ago? I didn’t even remember that.”
“I think you told me when I was five.”
It was like a gift from my oldest. A gift that is sweet and hurts at the same time. It lights up a part of me and hurts me, too.
We have been listening to a lot of Mumford & Sons since we went to their show this weekend. (We met Mumford! And a couple of Sons! They were so kind!). How (terribly) timely to have watched the video for Beloved earlier that day. I was already thinking of her- Nana, Grandma Ruth, Mom- and then the cereal comment at dinner.
I took a bath.
Cried a lot.
Went to bed.