Right now, more than ever, I need the psychological release that long runs provide. Unfortunately, physically, I also need this downtime.
These days I find myself wishing for the simplicity of small children and their small issues over the complexity of big children and their bigger issues. I refer to, of course, my almost 14, 11, 10 and 6 year old. I imagine that those with even older kids, say mid to upper teens, are thinking, "Oh honey, just you wait. Yours are still young!" And I know that. But the glimpse of the uncertainty of the years ahead is a bit scary and some days I want to go back to babies who have kept me up all night, skinned knees and crying over having to take a nap.
Each of my kids needs me right now. They need me in ways they never have even if they don't necessarily want me. This is especially true with Will, 14 next month. This very easy going, loving, sensitive and funny boy has transformed into this moody, argumentative, know it all teen. He pushes my buttons, pushes his limits and many days we go head to head in battle. I often find myself wondering if I just need to be silent and listen or continue arguing my point to make sure he gets it. All I can think of is the fact that I have one chance to not blow it. There are no do-overs when raising kids. I believe God knows my fears and occasionally sends me messages that I (or I should say WE) are doing a good job and that he is on his way to becoming a wonderful young man, despite the bumpy road. Will recently wrote a student essay for a high school application. In it, he mentioned how fortunate he is to be growing up in such a faith-filled family. He described this influence as being one that he hopes helps him lead others. During the last two weeks, I have gone back to that in my mind to help ease some of the anxiety I have right now. If he really means that, and I believe he does, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he will be just fine.
Jack, 10 next week, has very different needs. At the age of 6, based on a thorough assessment of his teachers, pediatrician and us (John and me), was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD. I scratched my head at the diagnosis back then since Jack is not hyperactive, nor is he really a discipline problem. I now realize that the "H" (for hyperactive) is just standardly put into most attention deficit diagnosis. When this was first discovered, I was adamantly opposed to medicating him. I made myself extremely clear that this was not a route we wanted to take. Thankfully, our pediatrician was sensitive to our wishes and helped give us ways to manage his inattention and focus ability so that he could do well in school.
With that discussion, however, came a warning... "As the workload in school becomes harder and more focus and attention is needed, no matter how intelligent he is, he may begin struggling to maintain his grades. Often times we begin to see these kids bringing home Ds and Fs in about the 3rd or 4th grade, where they were bringing home As and Bs before. At this point, many parents find themselves needing to introduce meds and when they do, their children's grades go back to As and Bs since they are able to focus and pay attention."
His words were eerily prophetic. That is exactly what is happening right now. Only I am still trying my best to manage his inability to focus on difficult tasks without medication. We have turned our house upside down revamping his diet, removing things we have researched as being harmful for kids like Jack and putting him on a diet that has been shown to help these kids. Let it be known that this is killing us. We spend hours doing homework, most of the time trying to get him to just sit down and start working (or stay down and continue working). He forgets everything and is the most disorganized child you will ever meet. He refused to go to basketball practice yesterday and instead came home in the carpool and told me he quit. I was so angry until I looked into his little face and saw the fear he had telling me. Sports are getting harder for him. He can't remember the drills or where he is supposed to be on the court. He's small and can't make a lay-up (he told me as he cried). The other kids are bigger and better. My heart breaks for him and yet I know that there are other kids with MUCH bigger challenges in life. But he is MY kid and he is struggling and this is very hard for me to watch and wonder if I am doing him a terrible disservice by my refusal to medicate. His 10 year check up is December 5th, where we will go back to the drawing board and discuss all of our options.
I sometimes forget that 6 is still little. I think we are out of the woods when it comes to needing a watchful eye on Lucy around the house. Things don't need to be baby proofed anymore. I don't need to put the liquor up high (on the contrary, these days I keep it VERY close) and she is free to run about without me needing to follow her. So on Friday night when she crawled across the stove, putting her hand on the hot range in an effort to reach the salt shaker, I was reminded that she IS still little. Lucy has 2nd degree burns across her entire palm and some of her finger tips. I had no idea how serious this is when it happens on the hand. She earned a trip to the ER, where the on-call physician told John that a consult at Shriners Burns Institute would be a good idea. We thought he was being a little over the top until yesterday. Last evening I spoke to a neighbor who is a fire fighter and paramedic. His 6 year old recently burned her elbow on the stove and it became infected, causing a fever and earning her a nice round of antibiotics. Figuring he sees this sort of thing often, I texted him a picture, concerned about the redness around the large blisters. He texted me back and told me to call him. I did and he asked if we had been to Shriners. He began to tell me all the reasons it is necessary to get a consult there when a burn like this occurs... the high risk of infection due to it being on the hand, the fact that there are so many tendons in the hand that when the blister heals, the hand is likely to remain in a contracted state, requiring lots of PT to help release the scar tissue. Lucy is already holding her hand continuously in a "C" shape. He continued to tell me that every single child he has brought to Children's ER with this type of burn is sent over to Shriners. Huh? Her hand was off the burner in less than 1 second and we had it under cold water immediately. How could this have become such an ordeal? She sees the pediatrician at 9 this morning. I am hoping we don't have to cancel Thanksgiving for a Shriners admission!
The silver lining in our house these days is Emma, age 11. The most unlikely of the four to be showering me with hugs and love is indeed, showering me with hugs and love. Emma was the baby who didn't like to cuddle or be rocked. She was squirmy and on the move all the time. She was a rotten toddler, a punkish little girl and a sassy child. She has a quick temper and a sense of humor far beyond her years. She makes me crazy and she makes me laugh. And yet lately she has been my one child that has given me the affirmation I've needed that I am not failing my children. Emma is beautiful and graceful and funny as heck. She is fiercely protective of Lucy and a top notch student. I have yet to find a teacher who doesn't love having her in class and love her humor. When she is not home, I miss her presence. And I firmly believe that this will all come to a screeching halt in about 14 months, when she turns the ripe old age of.... 13.
But for now I am able to see how God works. Through all the uncertainty and worry of raising kids, there are constant messages that He is close and that I am doing ok as a mother. For these things I encounter daily, I am so grateful. Monday it was the hour and 10 minutes I spent running with Sarah, talking about many of these issues and so much more and feeling in good company with many of my motherly struggles. Yesterday it was Lucy telling me that when she grows up, she wants to be "a mommy, a nurse, and a marathoner..." It was Will giving me the requested hug in the morning and knowing it was sincere. It was watching Jack, once again, play priest (when he was supposed to be at basketball practice) and seeing the reverence and respect he had for the crucifix he was parading around. And it was Emma telling me she loved me as she hopped out of the car and in to school.
But mostly, it was John walking through the door at 5:11 pm and taking over :)
Happy Thanksgiving! In the midst of hardship and chaos, notice your blessings and the Divine presence that it with you always.