My senior in high school has just accepted an offer from a major university. They start as a freshman in Fall 2018. This kid has carved a beautiful future with their bare hands. Even though I know they are who they are because of my parenting, this is all their success.
A preface: My child is gender neutral and their pronouns are they them their. I slip up sometimes, but it’s important to me to not misgender them. For this post, I use the feminine pronouns with her permission.
It was 1999 – the year started with my husband and I and my oldest child living in the basement of his mother’s house. I had a dream that I was pregnant and in the hospital delivering the baby. The nurse showed me the baby and said “You have to give it a name right now or we have to take it away.” My late husband said the next day that I stood straight up in the bed like a possessed woman and yelled out (a strong irish catholic compound name – completely out of the blue) and then collapsed back into the bed sound asleep. The next day, I did a pregnancy test, and upon seeing the results, he said “Well, we know what we’re calling it!” And that was that.
About 5 months into the pregnancy, due to my age (I was 35) they did the usual tests for spinal defects and genetic disabilities. Friday afternoon at 5 PM, the nurse left a message on the answering machine: “We had some abnormal results on the test showing spina bifida or cerebral palsy. Please call (Radiology clinic in a BIG Seattle hospital) on Monday morning after 9 AM to schedule further testing. Have a nice weekend. *click*” That weekend was one long conversation about the future. I accepted it and moved on, ready to take on whatever gift I’d been given. Those around me were critics – Their arguments were objective and logical – but selfish. Whatever we found out from the further testing would tell me what I needed to do next. I had already named this child. She was mine. We had the deep ultrasounds, and found nothing out of place or incomplete. She was perfect. I was relieved, but I hadn’t been troubled by the possible outcomes.
She came home one day in 2nd grade and tossed a paper at me.
“Sign that, please” she said as an afterthought.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Just sign it, Mom. I’m going to be in the gifted class next year.”
Upon reading the paper, and calling the school, I found my child had in fact, with a few teachers’ help, rounded up and filled out all the paperwork, obtained teacher recommendations, submitted her applications, and this paper was asking my permission to enroll her in the class. Of course I signed it.
That was the last time I worried about my child. When her brother was diagnosed with Autism, she became his best friend. While school and activities came first for her, every spare minute was spent with her brother. She missed out on some opportunities because of it, but she considers it all time well spent. I always knew exactly where she was, and she never snuck out or got in trouble. There was the time she got to the band concert and realized she forgot her music at home across town – and the time she had to climb in her window because I fallen asleep while waiting for her to get home. She learned to manage herself very young. It may not be the childhood either of us wanted for her, but neither of us have any regrets.
And now, they have college, a part time job with the union of their craft, a side job teaching music, the local Opera, a few local theaters, and goodness knows what else is on the list. My kid keeps telling me, “I got this, Mom.” And she does.