I have two children closer to thirty now that son number two turned twenty-five in August. Outrageous! I am not old enough to have children that old am I? I certainly don’t feel it and on a good hair day may even get away with not quite looking it (at least that is what my magic mirror tells me). While I am not quite presiding over an empty nest yet because son one doesn’t live too far away and spends some afternoons foraging for food in our refrigerator and son two lives over the garage, the boys are rearing to go and I am anxious, eager and confident all at once!
My first two children were an unplanned – let’s say -“surprise” . Mid-way through my first year of architecture I fell for a handsome guy at a bar and lost my good sense. We did the “right thing” getting married six months before our first son was born and then it all went to hell. Thankfully, he and his TV disappeared one day about a year later leaving me with an empty wall, an infant son and another on the way. I have no regrets for how it all began because the universe in its infinite wisdom gave me boys knowing that girl drama would be too much and that my future husband would be the best father and friend they both could have.
When the boys were small, before I understood that I was more of a tour guide than director, I allowed myself to imagine a single aspect of their future. Although I dared not determine an actual career path because I did not want to be that kind of controlling mother, I did assume that one day I’d be dropping them off at university, (preferably Ivy League) festooned with academic and athletic scholarships. I reasoned that since I had been a good student, I could easily produce even better ones. My dreams of academic genius where further buoyed when my now husband of twenty years joined us forever on my oldest son’s third birthday. He too was academically gifted and disciplined and together our boys would have access to the best education and enrichment activities within a construct of positive reinforcement we could afford. I could not have been more delusional.
It turned out that son number one was dyslexic with some sort of processing disorder, a fact that would take years and a long list of “specialists” to uncover. By then he was floundering in school with reading torture and writing a near impossibility. Son number two, eighteen months his junior did not share his brother’s “processing” limitation but he had his own, he loved to socialize far more than he liked to compete against his peers. Between a child who couldn’t and child who wouldn’t we spent a good number years exhausting all manner of tests, psychologists, tutors, bribery, achievement charts and even punishment to achieve less than mediocre grades and a chaotic household.
By the time Gus was born, ten years after son number two, I had begun to put aside the ill conceived notion that the greatest measure of our children was their academic and/or athletic success. One day it occurred to me that I was driving myself and our boys crazy trying to turn them into little clones of ourselves for the worst possible reason – approval and acceptance from other parents. I finally recognized that I although I claimed that they should fit the mold “for their own good”, I was embarrassed by their academic failures as my own parenting failure. What would my peers think if I did not get them into the “right” high school followed by a prestigious college?
I decided to trade the pressures of academics and athletics for a happy home and Gus’ short but well lived life would prove that I had done so at just the right time. Instead of all academics all the time, we would choose a couple of days in the year for movie day, vacations over summer school, joy over stress. Gus had battled cancer and won, or so we thought when the older boys were graduating from high school. As a family we refused to make that final year more stressful than necessary and skipped the SAT, college application rat race. Instead on a random day in January we signed them up for the local community college that best suited their interests and declared them “college” students. Gus was only the fourth grade when he passed away and ironically had expressed more interest in doing well academically than either of his brothers, I no longer cared I only wanted him to live.
In retrospect, I am forever grateful that the boys never went away to college. Perhaps it was the universe’s way of keeping the brothers together for that final year, the three of them playing X-box until the very end. In the four years since, they have each started to embark on the path that was their own from the very beginning; son number one an extremely honest and helpful automotive technician and son number two a recent graduate from a state university in finance and waiting to see where his love of speaking will take him. They are both kind, generous, patient, loving, funny, creative, helpful and so many wonderful things that I can only stand back and marvel. So far so good….