Around the age of 27 I noticed what appeared to be a “baby boom” amongst my friends on Facebook. It seemed like hordes of us were all pregnant at exactly the same time. Truth be told there are actually 8 of us that had children within a 4 month period. So in a way-thank you age of technology-I have felt a part of their lives since they were born even though we live on separate ends of the country.
I have this one friend (as I am sure we all do) that has a son that is exactly one month younger than Jp. The kid is a genius. No lie, Bobby Fisher level oh-my-god-that-can’t-be-real genius. At 7 months he knew his letters and could identify them and was speaking in full sentences by 12 months. Through the years I have watched videos of him and pondered to myself, What am I doing wrong here? How can this child be so far advanced? I must not be trying hard enough or spending enough time teaching Jp. As destructive as this thinking is, it was the way I felt at the time. That I wasn’t doing enough. That I was failing somehow.
Then came the expressive language delay and I invited myself to a pity party that raged on for months. It was MY fault, I wasn’t trying hard enough, if I just worked with him more he wouldn’t be behind, ect. Through this whole process of evaluating and relearning how to teach him I held a belief in the back of my crowded little mind that if I could just do better, it would all be okay. Everything would align the way it was supposed to. I would have irrational fits of jealousy. I would become jealous, jealous, jealous of every child I saw that didn’t have to work as hard, jealous of every parent that would complain about their child’s ‘endless questions’, even jealous of the parents that I saw that could reason with their children and calm them out of a tantrum with words and bribes. It isn’t fair! They have it so easy!
It is horrifically embarrassing in hindsight to even convey the magnitudes of envy I would be overcome with each and every time my proud parent Facebook friend would post a video of her child prodigy doing an activity that was an almost laughably impossible concept in our home. It was all incredibly unhealthy and counterproductive. I knew that, I could recognize it, and it didn’t change my reaction one iota. I would just feel so frustrated at life, at myself, and at other parents for no reason other than I was processing everything still and in that process I was in the “anger stage”.
Please do not fault me for viewing the 5 stages of grief over a loss as synonymous to my processing of my son’s developmental issues. Part of it is quite parallel if you think about it carefully. When your children are born you have these elaborate plans and dreams. I used to brag (I cannot make this up) that since a child is so capable of learning and understanding languages at an early age that my child would be enrolled in at least 2 other different languages by the age of three. I really said that. On multiple occasions. To multiple people. I think as parents we want our children to be better than we are, smarter, more prepared for the world than we were. So, for me, finding out that my dreams of raising my own Bobby Fisher were not possible, was adjacent to a death for me. It was the death of a dream. I realize now what a selfish and childish fantasy that was but it took time-and stages of denial and anger and bartering-to get there.
And I am finally there.
After the impromptu play date, I had a hunch. It was a wonderful moment to not care what was going on. To let go and let him just be him. It was a monumental step for me. I have agonized and analyzed every movement and sound that he has made for months upon months upon months. It was exhausting and utterly ridiculous. I can see that now for what it is. At the time, however, I saw it as being ‘actively involved’ in his development. Not the obsessive insanity that it actually was.
Though today was my final moment. I was doing my usual cruise through Facebook over coffee while Jp ate his breakfast. I saw a video of the prodigal child. I clicked on it for the first time in months (I was actively boycotting watching any of them to avoid upsetting myself). There he was, all bowl cuts and cuteness, reading a book. Out loud. R-E-A-D-I-N-G. A few weeks ago that would have sent me over the edge. I would have spent Jp’s nap time (or more accurately…rest time) crying about my failures. Blaming my genes, my Chorioamnionitis, my everything.
Not today, folks.
I saw the video and I laughed. It was so cute. How does she do that? How did she teach a two and a half year old to read? Instead of the gut-wrenching feelings of inadequacy I felt proud of her. Proud that my friend was such an amazing mother and that her son was so thoroughly impressive. Kudos to her and he both! Then it occurred to me that they weren’t the only ones in this scene that deserved a kudos. I did.
Because I have FINALLY reached acceptance.
Not just talking myself into it. Or attempting to force myself to believe it. I truly am comfortable with the fact that Jp may never be some of the things that I dreamed. And that is okay because, after all, they were my dreams, not his. He is going to have his own aspirations and that is okay. It is more than okay, it’s phenomenal. I am finally GLAD that my dream died. Because it never was his dream to begin with and more importantly, it was the final shred of selfishness that was left in my mommy heart.
Now we can focus on his goals and desires as it should be. The fact that I am married to my best friend and have a beautiful, healthy son that is the light of our lives was my dream. And I am already living it.
I'm just living minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.