I had to stop my mind from racing to listen. My mind (it has a mind of its own) had taken off ahead of me to an all too familiar place–the place it has gone over and over since the day this chatty firstborn boy of ours named Miles was born. My mind, it ran to fear. Every parent knows there are a host of emotions that live in that one place. Fear.
I didn’t know fear came packaged in so many ways until I had Miles. Back in those first days, I sat and looked at those tiny newborn nostrils and I wondered how they could keep bringing in air and what if they didn’t? Or what if someone took him? Or what if someone hurt him, molested him, tore him down with words he could never return from? What if?
Seven and a half years and two more kids later, we’ve lived through one of the Big Fears with an illness in our second son and we’ve lived through many other trials, big and small, just like we all do. Both the big and small are hard, and what I’m learning is that sometimes it’s the ones in the middle that are the most confusing. Maybe it’s because they’re the most unexpected.
What’s going on with Miles these days is something in the middle, I suppose. So I look at him and try hard to concentrate on the story he’s telling right now. He’s talking about a hiding place in the trees across the street from our house, where he and his neighbor friend have hidden a “project” that they’re working on. He clears his throat three times fast. Then he continues to tell me that they take sticks and find things to tie them with and they’re hoping for a big enough raft for them both to fit on when they’re done. I ask him if his little brother is helping and he says he is, after stopping to clear his throat twice. He says that his brother holds the sticks together while he and his friend tie them. Then he clears his throat a few more times before going on. He loves to talk and talk, but lately his throat clearing is even taking over that.
During this particular story, he stops between words and halfway through and between sentences, to do his throat clearing with short little coughs. He does this constantly. I notice it almost every time. When he’s not talking, not a second goes by with that sound. The doctor said it’s a tic. When she first said this, Miles thought she was referring to a bug, a tick, and we laughed with him, but I still felt like I’d been slapped. I don’t want him to have a tic.What do I do about that? How do I help him? I want this to be a cold or allergies. I want it to stop after we find the thing that stops it and then we implement that thing and then it stops. I want it to leave him alone.
That day in the pediatrician’s office, he sat beside me, clearing his throat rapid fire. It’s a little growl, a short and deep vibrato. He can’t stop and it’s disruptive at school and we can’t figure out a way to help him. He talks about it candidly, openly. He says he wishes he could stop. That he’s tired of it but that he’s sure there’s something in his throat so he just can’t stop. He’ll see an ENT to be sure there’s no other reason for this, but more than likely, this really is a tic. Less fixable. Evidence of too much anxiety or ADD or a myriad of other disorders that we aren’t prepared for because nothing about parenting really ends up having anything to do with preparation.
On the day these babies are born, when we’re blinded by unconditional love and fluctuating hormone levels, we know this sort of thing is coming, at least subconsciously. We get scared because we don’t know the specifics, but we know hard things are going to happen to them, and we know we won’t always be able to help them, to make it better. We’ve been around the block a time or two and we’re okay after taking a few shots and even being kicked when we’re down, but how are they going to be okay? Suddenly trusting the power of the human spirit to rise above trials of any size isn’t quite so easy. Not when you look at your very own innocent and helpless children. They are too pure to have to learn the hard way, like us.
So today I sat in a room with this firstborn boy of mine and listened to him talk to a speech therapist. She was teaching him some ways to cope. He did what she said. He was breathing deeply, over and over, relaxing his body, even his throat, trying. And I could feel how hard it was for him; how he was fighting the urge to repeat, to release, to tic. Tears sprung to my eyes as he took deep breaths with her and they counted, twenty deep breaths. It felt so long and the moment she said twenty, a little growl escaped from his throat, one that he tried to keep subtle but I could see his whole body tensing, wanting to be left alone to release. I could only watch.
I am holding the sticks together while he ties them with strings. I am tying the tightest knots that I can but I don’t know if we’re going to float. Today I sat there helplessly, on my hands, untying, and sometimes that’s all I can do. Breathe deeply with them, trying to let go. Because the point is not to fix it all and make them comfortable all the time. It turns out quick fixes and constant comfort will steal the messy and beautiful grit of life that builds them up and that’s the last thing they need.
I was only a child when I had these children, entitled and doing everything I could to avoid discomfort. They are teaching me, when I sit on my hands, and the gift is that I can give it back to them in letting go, letting them see that the power of the human spirit is buried in pain.
We’re building a raft and it may or may not float.
The greatest challenge in parenting, for me, is this letting go so my children are not kept from growing, despite my mother fears. What’s the greatest challenge for you?
We Still Blog Week One: Life’s Challenges
EDITOR’S NOTE FROM KELBY CARR: For this new series, We Still Blog, a blogger will share their fabulous writing unfettered by online style guidelines, SEO, PageRank, inbound links, and any other pesky distractions. You can also participate! In fact, we would love to see each post spark creative inspiration with other bloggers so the art of writing well doesn’t get lost.
To participate, just blog anything on the theme Life’s Challenges! There are some suggested writing prompts below. Then come back and share your post in the linky below. You don’t need to link here or add the linky to your blog or ANYTHING. Just write. Even if just one post is inspired by this, we will call it a win here at Type-A Parent. And if you don’t have time for a post, comment below and discuss life’s challenges!
THEME: Life’s Challenges
- What was the most challenging moment of your life?
- What is your worst fear?
- What challenge have you overcome?
- What is the hardest thing about being a parent?
- What challenge gets you the most energized and fired up?
- What is the one accomplishment that brings you the most pride in yourself?
SUBMIT YOUR POST
Be sure under name to use the following format: Your Name – Post Title
NOTE: Would you like to write a post for the We Still Blog series at Type-A Parent? You can apply here.