When I first held my sons as babies, I knew intellectually that someday they'd grow older, but the concept of having an actual big person living with me that I helped create was a funny thought. As I sang the "ABC" song to my tiny newborn (somehow believing I was giving him a "head start" at a successful life, or at least an academic advantage) I thought how bizarre it would be to have an actual kid that I couldn't strap on my back. When I had my second son, I already had a toddler, so at least recognized that the baby would become an independent being running around the house. But those parents who had grade-schoolers or teenagers were simply old. I knew it wasn't going to happen for awhile for me.
And yet here I am. My oldest begins middle school in a month. A month! He's attending an algebra class right now that reminds me of how much I've forgotten. It won't be long before he knows more math than I do; and it won't be long until he's taller than I am. Meanwhile, my youngest has a "look" that is teenager-certified. I can already see flashes of adult wisdom in his eyes in between his jubilant bouts of being a kid.
I look in the mirror and see wrinkles. And yet I know I am still "young" in many ways, even if in just a week I'm going to have my spine hitched up because it is so darn deformed. (I guess I should be thrilled that most people having this particular back surgery are actually much younger than I am. Still, I'm not looking forward to shuffling around tentatively rather than striding briskly as tall as my 5'3" frame can muster.)
My sons are children one moment, and adults the next. They have moments of great maturity and moments of crazy juvenile stupidity. I am so thankful for who they are, and yet frightened of just how quickly they are becoming more independent. I wish I could cuddle with them longer, but know that part of their education is my trust in them. There are moments to hold tight, and moments to let go.
It is a cliched realization, I know. And yet, as I approach surgery next week, I recognize I am the one becoming the child. I will depend on others. I will require my kids to take on a more adult role. I literally cannot pick up after them.
Although I'm frightened for myself during recovery, I'm also worried about what impact having a not-so-capable mother will have on my kids. This is definitely a learning experience: Mom is not invincible. Mom cannot be at your beck and call. Mom is vulnerable.
I couldn't have attempted this surgery with young children: they would have needed me too much. And yet, my children aren't super-old either: it is going to be hard to see their mother in pain. We teach our children to trust us: Mommy's not going to let anything bad happen to you. Little by little, we reveal the truth: that parents are mortal human beings who don't know everything and who cannot prevent all pain. My surgery is going to accelerate that process a bit for my kids. Two years ago, my dad's heart surgery shocked me into recognizing my father's mortality. (Thankfully, he's now healthier than ever.) I know my kids aren't going to process my procedure the same way - because of course spinal surgery does not carry the same risks as heart surgery - but seeing me "slower" than usual will make an impact.
When we bring children into the world, we want to be Super Mom, Super Dad, Super Parent. We want to give them everything and be there for them. I know that in the end not being a parachute every step of the way actually helps them become stronger; but being forced out of action for awhile is still a scary prospect, as is the "selfish" nature of taking the time to fix myself.
Thankfully, I see in front of me two amazing young men - who might still be very young, but who are much older than I could have ever imagined.
The exciting tales in The Kari's Spine Chronicles:
- Women are Just a Pain
- You Do the Hokey-Pokey and You Turn Yourself Around...
- The Secret Knock
- Natasha and the Pink Hedgehog
- Trust Me
- Self Respect
- I am Not a Failure
- Please Wash Your Hands
- Hospital Food
- I am Not Super Mom, but I Have Fantastic Kids
- Spine Surgery Day
- Back Home