Tag Archives: Parenting

A Grieving Parent’s Growing Pains

“Good night”, she said.  “I love you.”

“Good night.  I love you too my sweetheart”, I replied.  I was reading on my bed when she came in.  I watched her walk away and marveled at the amazing young woman she has become.  And I questioned how it happened, when.

I blinked and here we are.

We spent the weekend attending various graduation parties.  Life is in full bloom for these new young adults.  Their wide eyes begging to take on everything in sight.  The increasing pace of their beating hearts palpable to anyone near them as they overflow with the anxiousness to take that first step in their new journey.  Laughter and joy abounds.  Their parents, an incompatible mix of immense pride, yet also the lingering pangs of sadness over that fact that they will soon be leaving, the fact that they are no longer needed the way they once were.

“Five years and we’ll be here ourselves”, I tell my husband.  I can hardly believe it.  Just stop I plead with Time.  Just wait.  Just give me a little longer.  Where did it go?  Was I even present for it?  I can’t remember it, I think to myself.  Where was I?  What was I doing?  When had she stopped being a little girl?  Have I done enough, taught her enough, instilled in her our values so she adopts them as her own?

I become misty eyed, feeling like every mother must, in losing my little girl to womanhood.  I know my time with her is limited.  And I know that she, like every other child who grows up, must want the freedom and ability to experience life on her own terms, too.

Then, on the other hand, I’m grateful for every bit of it because she’s growing and flourishing.  When I look at her, I see all the same magic and inspiration I see in the eyes of those graduating seniors.  And I want her to have every bit of goodness and opportunity the world can offer.

I try my best to prepare her.  I’ve never wanted to fill her head with fairytales. I tell her it will be hard, she’ll have to fight for what she wants, push through her trials, and to neverSkylar take a back seat. I encourage her to purse her dreams, with the understanding that being smart, while she is (astonishingly so), isn’t enough on its own so she knows she has to be willing to go out there and go after what she wants instead of sitting around waiting for it her find its way to her.

As much as it pains me (but of course I’m proud of her and happy for it) to see my child changing before my eyes; becoming her own person, blossoming into a being all her own; not needing me, I know that the alternative is far worse.  I know from experience.  And there is deep sadness.  The hole in my heart reserved for our Miss Elliott, gone more than five years now opens a little wider in these moments.  In the undeniable moments that reaffirm each time we live through them that there will never be these milestones and celebrations for her.

I will never know who she would have grown into being.  What she would have accomplished.  Whose lives she would have changed.  She will always be three years old.

As the gap between my girls continues to widen exponentially, I can only hope she will carry her sister’s memory with her as she navigates the roads of life.  When she has no siblings at home to share secrets with, fight with, turn to, or champion one another I can only hope that in her heart she feels a connection to her sister and knows she’s not an only child, even if she has to live this life as one.

I hope she will use her loss to propel her to reach new heights in both love and life.  I know that she is by far more compassionate and understanding of others and their own plights, at such a younger age than she would have otherwise been.  And while I would have never asked to place this burden on her, as a grief counselor once told me:

“We must be good stewards of our grief.”

     In that spirit I will not wallow in my sadness,  I will not stunt her own growth and development, but I will use it to further advance my daughter’s dreams and aspirations as she grows and matures, to the best of my ability, in honor of a beautiful life cut far to short.  In honor of the live I have, and always will for both my beautiful girls.

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The Son I’ve Never Known

It’s an odd form of grief, pining away for the son I’ve never known.  Odd, but unfortunately, I’m used to a large part of my life revolving around grief these days.  I love him, I miss him, and I truly feel that he is missing from me.  Is he cold?  Does he have a coat?  Who is caring for him?  Is anyone showing him love?  Did he receive any presents at Christmas? What kind of situation is he living through right now? These and many more, are the questions that relentlessly plague my mind when I think about him.  We don’t know what he looks like, sounds like, or what kind of personality he has, but we love him wholly and though we’ve never met, there’s already a space within our hearts carved out specifically for him. That space will only be filled when he finally comes home to us.

For two years now, our oldest daughter, Skylar, has waited patiently for the brother she’s never met.  She talks about him, makes plans for him, and put presents of drawings and craft creations in his room, all while dreaming of some day knowing him as a living breathing part of our family, instead of just an abstract idea.  He exists already, in theory, in spirit, and somewhere in the world, in the flesh.

The longing for our son started several years ago.  Loren and I had always wanted to adopt some day.  That was the plan, from the beginning.  Someday, down the road, when the time was right.  In the meantime we had two beautiful girls, but when we discovered that our youngest daughter, Miss Elliott, was terminally ill at the age of ten months old with a rare genetic condition that we had unknowingly passed on to her, we could see that our path had been made clear.  There was no treatment or cure for her condition, and she would pass away, most likely by the age of four years old.  Our grief for our daughter, our family, for what we would never have, and what we would lose, began in that very moment.  Understanding that from this point forward, adding to our family biologically would never again be an option again was devastating in itself, but remembering the idea for adoption we had first held so many years earlier was comforting and secured our belief that it was the right choice for us.  Losing our daughter to Tay-Sachs Disease, just over two years later, was nearly an unfathomable occurrence, even with a preemptive understanding of the situation itself, it did nothing to diminish our pain.

We had never intended to stop growing our family at two children.  Even if we had made that decision, as a woman, suddenly not having the ability to make it for myself made me feel as though I were being robbed of a part of my femininity.   We didn’t want Skylar to grow up as an only child.  We wanted to round out our children, our two beautiful daughters, with a son of our own as well.  We wanted Skylar to have a brother.  A sibling to play with, laugh with, fight with, to tell secrets to, and even to gang up against mom and dad with.  Adoption was the answer, and our chance to expand our family.  This was our chance at having the son we may, under other circumstances, have never known.  Beyond that, we felt that it was our duty to do so.  Who knows what life would have had in store for us had we not lost our Miss Elliott.  Would adoption have been nothing more than a pipe dream or a well intentioned idea that we never got around to, slowly cooling off on the back burner of life?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that we felt that because of the blessing of Miss Elliott’s, albeit, too-short life, we had been given the chance to help another child in need.  A child that may not otherwise be able to experience the love of a family that he so deserved.

Another blessing of Miss Elliott’s life came in the form of Skylar’s ability to express a deep and sincere sense of compassion for others.  She is so kind, patient, selfless, and accepting of everyone.  She amazes me with her strength and resilience every day.  She gives me reason to move forward.  Her sister was different, but not to her.  Miss Elliott was the only sibling Skylar had ever known, and Skylar has always been proud to be her big sister.  Though she couldn’t walk or talk, couldn’t see or function cognitively, it never mattered to Skylar.  She loved her sister for who she was, not what she could or couldn’t do.  There were no qualifications for her love.  She gave it willingly, without condition or reservation.

When I see Skylar welcoming and befriending a new student in class, helping a special student to achieve a task, tending to the younger children in a group, excitedly pointing out her sister’s name on a sign, or even praying for her brother to come home soon, I know how truly blessed we are and how wonderfully all of our children have changed our lives.  Whether they’re here with us, have moved past us, or have yet to come home to us, all of our children have given us extraordinary gifts in life that we couldn’t imagine living with out.  From the daughter I knew for a short while, to the daughter who continues to teach me every day, and the son I’ve not yet come to know, I am blessed with riches beyond worldly compare.