In less than two weeks is the 32nd anniversary of our son’s birth. That February in 1982 was cold and snowy. We lived in a little house in Chatham County where the wind blew through the beaded board and a wood stove struggled to keep us warm.
I worried about bringing that tiny little person home to that cold, drafty house. We pulled the bassinet up close to the bed which made for poor sleep. Every time he whimpered I was awake. Reading parenting magazines (there was no internet) I had read that SIDS was more prevalent among low birth weight males. I worried about this and probably disturbed his sleep more than I needed to.
I worried about whether he was growing properly. He was very long and thin. One time at the pediatrician’s office they questioned me closely – more closely than usual and my husband told me they were trying to figure out whether he had symptoms of cystic fibrosis. It was an intern who was examining our boy and finally when the attending came I relaxed.
“Look at these parents,” she said pointing to us. “They are tall and thin! What do you expect the child to look like?”
I worried that he did not have enough stimulation so we enrolled in “water babies” at the YMCA. I went expecting to meet more mothers but everyone hurried in spent their time in the water with their baby and hurried home. There was no parental interaction. Perhaps the competitive spirit had already taken hold.
A lot of parents I met worked outside the home, sending their babies to daycare. I couldn’t bring myself to consider that. Even though at the time of his birth I had a scholarship waiting for me in the School of Library Science to earn my Masters, I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t part with that little person. I couldn’t stand to think he would do anything without me seeing it first. We read books and did puzzles, we snuggled and watched Disney movies. He developed a love of music and one day while watching Dumbo he crawled up on my lap and shed his first empathetic tear. It was the scene where Dumbo’s mother is locked up and she reaches through the bars to hug and rock Dumbo. The song being sung was “Baby Mine.” He was about 3 years old.
When his sister came into the world it seemed my son’s world was complete. He doted on her and while displaying a bit of jealousy at times when she was getting attention (because she was utterly adorable) he felt it was his job to teach her things.
We moved to Durham County before he started kindergarten because I worried about how far away the school was in Chatham County. One day I came upon my two in my daughter’s room. My son was teaching his sister the musical scale on a little xylophone they had. I taped it on a VHS tape. He would tap Do and she would dutifully repeat – “Do”. As they finished he looked up and proudly stated, “I can teach her anything I want!”
They were normal kids. Riding bikes around the cul-de-sac with the other children. Making friends that were hard to part with when we moved to the mountains.
He was mine for 29 years. Yes preteen years and teenage years were full of angst and drama with both my children. Turbulent and terrifying at times, they never left the house that I did not worry that something terrible might happen to them.
Worry. It is a part of parenting for a lot of us if not all of us. I heard one woman describe herself as a helicopter mom – always hovering over her children.
As hard as it was for me, as worried as I was in most situations, I allowed my children to go.
They had their own life to live. During his life my son lived in Colorado and Ohio. He traveled to Montanan and Utah, Canada, Germany and Hungary. He would have traveled more as he had planned were he still here.
My Daughter had been to New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Florida, Mexico, Germany and Zimbabwe. She lived in Cincinnati with her brother about 6 months before he died.
The stretch from New Years to February the 4th has always been too short for me. Coming right after the Christmas/New Year holidays my son’s birthday was easy for it to get lost in the shuffle when planning a gift or special event.
When he was young at home we would have a sleepover with all his buddies in the game room. But as the years passed it was usually books or hiking equipment or camping equipment and later climbing gear he wanted.
It is hard to not buy things for him when I see clothes or books that he would like. I still want to do things for him but there is nothing to be done.
Deciding almost 32 years ago that I would not pursue a master’s degree was the right decision. I was a stay at home mom in a time when it was not popular. But I have never been good at doing popular things. I was good at being a mom to my son and daughter.
I still worry. I worry about things that are now in the past and cannot be changed. I worry about the future and how things will be when I am older and do not have my son. I worry that my daughter is the only child and has to deal with me and my husband as we age.
Worrying about things does not change anything. It is a fruitless occupation. I don’t know if at this point in my life I can put worry aside, though grief has certainly proved its ability to crowd out many things. I think grieving parents sometimes worry that they will forget their child in some way. But that, I assure you, is impossible.
Pam, thank you for sharing your beautiful and meaningful thoughts.