When you have a child, there's no guarantee that comes out of the womb with them. Certainly no guarantee that your offspring will be a perfect child. After all, nobody's perfect, right? As long as your baby comes out breathing, with 10 fingers and 10 toes, you're thrilled to death. You have no way to predict the future, so you live in that moment; that incredible, amazing, unforgettable moment.
As your child gets older, they achieve milestones that give you a better idea of how they're developing. Your child rolls over for the first time: check. Your child starts mumbling words in a language you can almost understand: check. Your child takes their first steps: check. And so on, and so on, and so on.
It's not until later in their life that other things may show up. Things like learning disabilities, mental illness, addiction. Or even a combination of those things. Obviously, any of those things are not things you would have requested if you had had the opportunity to place an order for the "perfect" child. And you certainly wouldn't have chosen the "combo platter."
But you know what? We don't order our children off a menu. We don't get to say "yea" or "nay" to certain attributes. It's a roll of the dice, and--for the most part--God determines what attributes our children will have. Our job as parents is to raise our children in spite of any imperfections they may have. That's what parenting is all about.
Some people, for whatever reasons, have children who will have hardly any problems growing up. Sometimes the biggest problem the parents of these children have is deciding which Ivy League school to send them to. Or helping them decide between medical school or law school.
Other people, though, have children who are a bit more challenging. But these parents aren't any lesser parents than those with the "normal" kids. It's just that God has given them a slightly more complicated task. This is the group my wife and I fall into.
I have no idea why my boys have had the issues they've had. Depression, anxiety, addiction, ADHD...they are all influenced by genetics, at least to some degree. So there's that. But maybe God just gave us these wonderful boys and their little flaws because he knew my wife and I would have the strength and courage and patience and perseverance to guide them on their journey. A journey that would certainly be a little bumpier than most.
If you would've asked me 23 years ago if I thought I could make it through what I've been through so far as a parent, I would've said, "Hell no!" and ran away screaming. Yet, here I am. It's cliche, for sure, but they say God doesn't give you anything more than you can handle. Maybe that's the truth. Maybe that's why my wife and I were chosen to parent these amazing boys.
As I write this blog post, one of my boys is just days away from being 10 months clean and sober. He's upstairs, sleeping in his old bed, in his old room. He spent last night here because he has to work today and the only time he could get a ride from his girlfriend's house to this side of town was last night. He's actually thinking ahead about these things and it's all good.
At the same time, my other boy is up north and is struggling a bit. My wife is up there with him, being the incredible mother that she is and doing everything she can to help him get through some issues.
In the grand scheme of things, despite what my wife have been through with our sons we've had it pretty easy. Our boys are not severely handicapped; they do not have a terminal illness; they are bright, intelligent kids who just need to deal with some things other kids don't have to deal with. Most importantly, though, they are alive and working their way through life, even if it's a bit of a struggle. Not every parent can say that about their kids. So I consider ourselves lucky.
Living in the moment is really the only way to deal with the issues my wife and I have had to deal with as parents. Sometimes it's incredibly difficult. Yesterday I had several crying episodes and struggled to get through a hectic workday. Sadly, there is no magic "PAUSE" button in life. You can't just push a button, wait until your problems are resolved or until you feel better, and then push the button again and resume your normal day-to-day activities. You just keep going, a day at a time. Or an hour at a time. Sometimes even a minute at a time.
Somewhere in all of this I have this crazy theory that maybe all of the difficulties my boys have had to go through early on in their lives will make them stronger later in life. Both of my boys are definitely late bloomers. I hope that someday they will both bloom like indescribably beautiful and fragrant roses on the most gorgeous of summer days. And that my wife and I are there to see and smell those beautiful flowers.
I love my boys more than life itself. Unconditionally. Like my younger son likes to say, "Forever and ever...no matter what."
"I don't remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don't even know exist until you love a child." --Anne Lamott