So, our big boy turns 2 this Wednesday. For months, I've have some anxiety about this day. What will I do if he's not walking by his second birthday? Will I be able to feel joy on this day? How bad of a mom am I that I fear I will be sad on his birthday. Why has walking become the holy grail of success for Thomas (and for mama?) Will I finally stop worrying about this most precious son of mine? I began to pray earnestly for him to walk by two. And then, it happened.
I took the kids to the Vigil Mass for the feast of the annunication. Ross couldn't make it so solo we went. It was hectic and stressful as everyone chose to act a fool at the same time. I took the kids to the narthex to threaten their lives when Thomas started grunting to go outside to his favorite bench. I set him up standing and frustrated, told him to PLEASE GO WALK. And he did. Our boy took 8 full steps (in a comical attempt to get out of Mass). There was no disputing that he walked. August 14, 2014, 23 months and 4 days old, our boy walked. I cried buckets.
But as I do, I spent about 11 minutes soaking in that gift, that answered prayer, before I began asking for the next. I'm like a kid in a toy store. One gift doesn't ever seem to be enough. A few weeks later Thomas started school. On the first day, parents were asked to come stay in the classroom for an hour to get the kids acquainted with their room and friends. I made it just a few minutes before I felt my heart begin to crumble. Thomas is the 2nd oldest in class of 12, with almost all of the children turning 2 before December. He is almost the oldest in class of children running, jumping, talking, communicating, playing. I walked out, had myself a cry and time and again tried to come back to the classroom. We are so seldom around children T's age and the differences were striking. The delays, the length of the road ahead, just so big. I know that comparison is the thief of joy. And that first day of school, I did measure my treasured son against the other children. I compared him and I suffered for it.
As Thomas gets older and we are out as a family more, the questions come. Are they twins? (and yes, Ross, I know dressing them alike doesn't help but I love me some matching outfits.) We are asked, How old are they? And as I say that Thomas is nearly two, I feel the need to explain. I haven't figured out how much or how little to share, how to share a part of our story while protecting Thomas's. But the situations present themselves daily. More and more, as this big birthday nears, I have had to hold back tears, sometimes successfully and others, (sorry if you've been subjected to them), sometimes not.
Recently, mama has made herself a new friend too and this precious new friend has a gift for connecting people, including others in conversations, activities, etc. She knew another mom at our school who she said I needed to get in touch with. That same day, amidst her busy day at work and home, she connected me to a mom whose daughter didn't walk until almost 3. A few emails later, and my heart has done a complete 180. This mom wrote "I knew in my heart that nothing was wrong with her, but I appreciated the doctor's wanting to be thorough and let them run their tests."..."even if they found something, it didn't change the fact that she's perfect." This sweet mama must have used the word perfect 5 times. I sat on my floor, absorbing this very different mindset. Now, anyone who knows us knows that I adore my Tom (and my Tim and MK). I breathe for these kids. But my mama brain has been all "what is wrong with my son? Which specialist can we see now? What bad thing is lurking in his body that we have to find.? Why is he not growing? Why is he developing so slowly? Do we see signs of this in Timothy?" I have been so focused on finding out what is wrong, and so much less focused on absorbing how precious and perfect God made Thomas. I have spent the first 9 months of my angel baby Timothy's life running up a mountain trying to "fix" Thomas. I can only imagine how much bad behavior I'll allow trying to atone for that over the years! Hello, guilt ridden mama is here. You may have anything you'd like Timothy Ninness!
Seriously though, I was struck by that mom's approach to her child and how different it was from mine. I talked with my friend Ashley a little bit about it and she sent me a series her church is doing called "in the meantime." When life is hard and gets harder and even harder, what do we do, in the meantime. The speaker was a man named Andy Jones who discovered that both his children had autism. The most striking thing he said was "when you focus on what's wrong, you lose sight of what God makes right."
I have been so focused on solving the puzzle, that I've missed a million little miracles along the way. Today at Mass, a part of one of Pope Francis' letters was read. He said that lay people must guard against getting wrapped up in serving simply in tasks. Their faith and spirituality must grow, must mature. My parenting has been so very task oriented lately. Calendars and appointments and goals and a few "please Jesus could you..." thrown in. I haven't stopped nearly enough to see the perfect parts of all of my babies. Today, I put Thomas down for a nap and caught MK reading on her bed. When I asked if I could read her a story, the look on her face broke my heart. "But it's not bedtime mom?" She could barely wrap her beautiful blonde head around the idea that her mama wanted to read her a story, just because.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude because Thomas turns 2 Wednesday. 9 months ago, my prayer was that we just get to keep him, in any form, in any way. So far, God has chosen to answer that prayer. And a few months later, I prayed that he would walk by 2. God chose to answer that prayer too. Yes, I am so ready for him to be walking independently and speaking more. But I think I'm finished chasing down answers. We have seen every specialist we can. If there is an answer, I want to be the mom Jennifer LaSota is, the mom who doesn't care because it doesn't change a damned thing.
Wednesday I will celebrate the living heck out of Thomas Perry Ninness. As a family we will celebrate that God sent us a boy of HIS choosing, created in HIS image. And this mama will resist any temptation to wish for an iota difference in this child. Andy Jones said that he would have never asked for Autism, but now he wouldn't give it back for all that his been changed and bettered, for all the glory brought to God because of his family's experience with it.Our lives are so, so easy in comparison, though it's never about that. It's about each of us looking to the heavens, holding our unique joys and personal crosses and whispering "thank you," for both the joys and the crosses.