“He’s not breathing”.
My mom shouts as she changes his diaper. I panic in slow motion as the words sink in: He’s not breathing.
Before I get to his room, he coughs. He’s fine except for a purple tinge circling his lips.
The doctor hospitalizes him for 24 hours, telling us there’s a small hole in his heart that will heal in time; it does.
But after RSV and jaundice, we are tired of trips to the hospital. It seems he can’t eat anything. Breastfeeding is an epic fail. He feels fragile. I hover, checking him many times in the night. It seems he will never be well.
Hour after hour I pray and wonder: Will this season ever pass, Lord? Will I have a healthy boy? Will he ever give up his sippy cup? Pacifier? Blankies? Teddy bear? When in the world will he be potty trained? Will he ever color since he hates the feel of crayon papers?
I sit for hours praying him past the difficulty; praying his life away.
I hear this familiar lament often when I am with the moms of littles. I wish he’d walk or talk. I wish she’d eat with a spoon. Others look on and judge the parenting: should she still have a pacifier? Shouldn’t he be potty trained? How long will they carry that bottle? He doesn’t know how to ride a bike? Oh, he can’t read at 4? If he doesn’t get on a good travel soccer team soon, he will miss the boat; that opportunity will pass him by.
Sisters, don’t worry about the pacifier or travel soccer. Let her start dance classes when she’s ready to twirl around the room. If he prefers legos to letters, then build away.
Because they grow up.
When you’re bundling your baby in winter or teetering with a toddler in spring, you don’t see it coming. And people like me say…oh, it goes by so fast. And you secretly think, oh, I wish this season would pass. But, I pray you hear: it goes by so fast.
The baby who overcame a stop breathing incident, jaundice, and sensory issues woke this morning as a 14-year-old young man.
He doesn’t have a sippy cup; he’s a great reader. After years of travel soccer, he’s settled on tennis and bowling – although he might try swimming in high school next year. He might roll his eyes, but no temper tantrums remain. He no longer needs me to dress him or clean his room.
He loves storytelling and conversation. He loves Student Council and volunteers for just about anything. His heart breaks when we speak of the Syrian refugee crisis. After we listened to a podcast series on Syria, Owen prayed they’d be allowed to go home.
Much to my dismay, he likes country music and doesn’t know many hymns (oh, how this inner Methodist cringed while explaining that we used to sing from books called hymnals, not screens and ProPresenter!)
On Friday, I met his girlfriend and her mom at the mall, then left him there with her for dinner and a movie. It felt a little like the end of the world.
He does dishes, laundry, and takes out trash. He loves his family deeply, always considering everyone’s feelings. He’s an amazing cousin to Chloe; her face lights up and she extends her arms as soon as Owen enters a room.
He tender-heartedly loves. Always giving the benefit of the doubt. Always giving hugs and “I love yous.”
So, see? They grow up. Quickly. They become young men (and women) with their own personalities, likes, and dislikes. Quirks and preferences.
And as I ponder the parenting of this 14-year-old and his 16-year-old sister I am sure of one thing: Raising an athlete or dancer should never be the priority – even for a season. Raising straight A students makes me proud, but it’s not “the thing.” Having popular kids who win awards and appear as angels to those looking on is not relevant.
Of all the great things I could share about and pray for Owen on his birthday, my prayer is simple – that he continues to heed the words given to the Israelites…Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Commit to His commands, Owen. And as your mom, I pray we continue to speak often of Jesus and his love in our home. When we sit and when we rise. That we never avoid the hard conversation or the “I just don’t understands.”
“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9
And whether or not you’re ever state champion this or that. Honor cord wearer or award winner, know this: your first and foremost a Jesus follower. And when you focus on the cross, the rest will take care of itself.
Happy 14th Birthday, Owen! I love you deeply, and I am so proud to parent you every day. You’re a gift!