I looked at the weather report on Sunday and realized his birthday was supposed to be an unseasonably warm and sunny day. So we split up Tuesday’s assignments between the remaining days and planned to go to an awesome state park that is about an hour away.
“Aren’t you allergic to some of the stuff out here?” my middle son asked my oldest.
I smiled, but didn’t reveal the answer. According to the allergy test, he is allergic to everything outdoors. Grass. Trees. Pollen. Ragweed. Dustmites. Mold. Cats and dogs. And yet, he hasn’t taken any allergy medicine for about four years. He sneezes more than most people. And he has a few really bad days each year. But we can hike around the bottom of a damp, leaf-covered canyon all day, and he feels fine. No Benadryl required.
“Yeah,” I added. “And weren’t you born in November when it is supposed to be cold?”
I choked back tears as we hiked along and I thought of how many obstacles he has overcome.
To say his birth was traumatic is not an exaggeration. I don’t know a lot about what happpened that night, but I do know he was barely breathing when we was born. He spent his first few days in the neonatal unit in an oxygen tent, fed by a tube in his nose.
During his toddler years, we would call him “highly sensitive.” He couldn’t stand the sound of crinkling paper. He hated noises. He would melt down if he got too warm.
We would go to playgroups and he would stay plastered to the side of my leg. He wouldn’t venture away from me to play with toys or interact with other kids. When he got to preschool, he spent the first few months standing in the corner crying. By March, he had finally warmed up enough to speak in class, much to the amazement of his teachers who didn’t seem to believe me when I insisted that he could talk. They had suggested a psychiatrist might be able to help with his anxiety.
So when I see him walk into a room these days and start organizing kids to play a game, I don’t take it for granted. I still find myself in awe many times when I see other kids look to him as a leader.
For many years, he was afraid to go on swings or slides. He didn’t learn to ride his bike until the summer before second grade. The OT said it was a “vestibular issue” and a problem with “movement through space.”
So when he started riding his bike on some challenging trails this summer, again, I choked back tears. When I see him climbing the side of a canyon wall and hanging from the side of a tree, I don’t take it for granted.
School wasn’t easy either. The teachers asked me to meet with them every month to assess his progress. He was struggling. They suggested therapists and tutoring and solutions moms don’t want to hear.
So this year when he says things like, “I’m starting to like math!” or “I think grammar is fun!” you can’t imagine what those words mean to me. We don’t have the long sessions where the two of us are crying because we are both so stressed out about school.
In so many ways, it seems life has been a harder struggle for him than for our other kids. And yet, my 10-year-old is such a light to our family. Where other kids blend in, he stands out.
We have all learned so much from him. He is such an example of kindness and caring for others. He truly wants to do the right things. He wants to understand big spiritual questions that we sometimes can’t answer.
He looks out for kids who are different or in need of friends. He has an awesome sense of humor. The kids at his co-op call him “funny man.” And his creative mind drives him to make up stories, draw pictures, and recruit other kids as actors in his plays.
When other kids talk about him, the first thing they usually mention is that he is fast. He can run. He loves to run. And when he runs, he is so light on his feet that it’s like he’s gliding on air. I would say that he doesn’t have a problem with his “movement through space.”
That was such a funny question to me. I could have asked so many more questions that would make it seem impossible we could be climbing the side of a canyon wall on my son’s 10th birthday.