Wow, my son turns 30 in two weeks. Wait. Who are you, and what have you done with my baby? Seems like only yesterday I was cutting colored construction paper to make the feathers he needed to play the Indian Chief for the Thanksgiving grade school play. I was sure he was going to be the next George Clooney as he recited his lines through the big gap in his teeth, long before I sold my soul to afford the $3,000 braces he eventually needed.
I have worked outside the home since he was three months old. I remember crying the entire night before returning to the office shortly after he was born, knowing some strange woman wouldn’t understand that certain cry of his that either alerted you to a soiled diaper or hunger pangs or just frustration from not being able to reach that mobile teasing him overhead in his crib.
My husband and I both worked full-time and still managed to chauffeur him to youth league football, birthday parties, hayrides at Cox Farm in the fall, baseball games and doctor visits. I connected and bartered with neighborhood women who became my “village” and helped raise him as if he were their own.
Even the nurses at the local emergency room soon learned to call him by first name after his numerous visits and close calls, like when a nail went through his wrist from his attempt at building a skate boarding ramp, or the x-rays needed after he went airborne from a ramp he built into the snow bank…what is it with boys and ramps?
After numerous broken fingers that he played football with before telling a soul, running into the back of a car on his bike (yes, not the other way around…poor driver was hysterical and apologetic even though it was my son’s fault), we had finally realized that this kid’s threshold for pain was much more superior than his sense of good judgment.
For some reason, I can’t remember when he first started shaving, can’t remember when his voice dropped three octaves, can’t really remember handing him his first set of keys. There are moments that have slipped by, possibly because they were without drama and occurred in their natural progression of life events. It’s funny the little things I do remember, though: stinky football jerseys, hidden speeding tickets underneath his bed, six-month old McDonald’s wrappers under the seats of his car.
There have been numerous statistics and research studying children of parents who work outside of the home compared to inside the home. I personally don’t think you can put children on research charts and spreadsheets. They are each unique, and each parent has a different threshold for patience, flexibility, acceptance and love.
The only thing I know as we creep closer to Thanksgiving and to this birthday milestone of his is that I’ve been blessed. Through all his eye rolling, teacher conferences, his sometimes turbulent teen years, school skipping and little white lies, he is kind, has lived life to the fullest and he brings out the goodness in others.
There are no statistics or research that can truly reflect the cause and effects of simply loving a child with all your heart. Whether you are working in the home or in an office…it is work, plain and simple. It is doing the very best you can. And the rewards are endless.
Happy Birthday, A.J.