I had a simple conversation with my youngest son. It was short and sweet, and by a lot of definitions is was a completely lovely conversation. And, while I should have felt all of those things, this conversation left me with a pit in my stomach. It left me feeling sad. The kind of sadness that washes over you all at once. First you feel overtaken by it. And then slowly it starts to feel less like sadness and more like peace.
It was a sadness that I knew would come. You see, this is a moment that I have been thinking about for a long time. It is a moment that I was told to prepare myself for. As it turns out; there really is no way to prepare yourself for the realization that your two year old son is beginning to surpass the skills of his four year old brother.
That morning as we sat on the couch enjoying cartoons my youngest began to dance around the room narrating the scene: “Mommy is drinking coffee.” And, “There is Grayson. He’s on the couch.” And so I asked, “Where is Rowan?” And he replied, without missing a beat, “I’m right here. Mommy, I am me.”
Such a simple thing to say, “I am me.” Except it is not simple. The concept of “me” is actually really difficult for kids to master. And here is my 2 year old using it like he has been saying it his entire life. I stood in amazement of his ability to correctly use the concepts of here and there. To add an apostrophe “s” to the end of “he”. And to do it all with such courage and conviction. I looked at him in awe; overcome with love and joy. Proud of my smart little man and his beautiful brain. In just a few short sentences he used concepts of speech and language that we have been working on with Grayson for over two years.
I know I should not get hung up on that. We should not compare our children to anyone else. We should embrace each child for all of the amazingness they possess in their tiny bodies. I know all of that in my head. But, my eyes see things that my head protects me from. Other children become mirrors to parents of children living with difference. Mirrors that we cannot avoid. Mirrors that remind us of the reality of our situations. Mirrors that recognize difference. Magnify it.
In the moment just after Rowan spoke, I looked from him to Grayson, and I feel the familiar ping of my fragile mommy heart breaking. You see a mother’s heart breaks for a lot of reasons. Our hearts break when our children are in pain. When our children are without. When we are not in control. Our hearts break for loss. For fear. For the feeling of helplessness. Hopelessness.
And there on that rainy morning, in the comfort of my home, my younger son did something that my older son cannot. And my heart is breaking.
Some time ago I sat with members of our team and we spoke about “emotionally preparing” for this moment. I remember sitting there dumbfounded. How is a mother supposed to prepare for that moment? It was a thought I could barely handle let enter my brain; little alone start to come to terms with it. It was a thought that I started to actively keep out of my brain. I had to protect both my head and my heart from the idea of it. Because I knew, deep down, that no amount of worry or fear or concern would help deflect the intensity of that moment. The pain of that feeling. The harshness of that reality.
That moment finally came. And, it should have put me into the fetal position. I felt wounded. I felt weak and sad. And, I sat with those feelings and let them wash over me. I felt sadness in the way that I needed to. And then from out of the sadness, came peace.
And, instead of folding myself into bed under the covers, I smiled back at my bold two year old. I looked him in the eyes and I said to him;“That is right, you are you. And, Grayson is Grayson. And daddy is daddy. And, I am me.”
And, that is just the truth. You are you. And, I am me.