A few years ago I wrote a post about turning 50, when age all of a sudden became important. Two years have past. Then karma kicked my butt, but in a good way.
It is freaking freezing in New England right now. Those who know me understand how I hate winter. I don’t mind cold or snow, if I am on skis. Otherwise I’d rather it be 80 degrees, my butt in the sand with an adult beverage in my hand. Since I was not about to do any outdoor activities, I decided to do an inside project. More honestly, to deal with some of the clutter in the house. Not all, because I am a realist and not that ambitious but some of the boxes that are sporadically placed in my home.
We have a bad habit, all of us except Bridget, in this house. We tend to clean by placing things in boxes and hoping they either disappear, become unimportant or suddenly have us winning the lottery we have not played. This weekend one of those boxes was filled with photos we had taken off the wall the last time David painted. I am not allowed to paint. Those who know me know the reason, those who don’t understand are new here or haven’t been paying attention to how crafts give me hives. So one day in our not so distant past, David painted the kitchen and most of our photos went into boxes.
But this weekend, honestly in prep for tax season, began to empty boxes and try to declutter. This is what I found in the first box.
This was Bridget in 2009, at 7 months old. I look at this photo and remember where I was in the moment. For the first time in their history her Montessori school had to call 911 (Bridget’s dad was actually on duty and responded to the school). We had not yet met the neurology fellow who would tell us she “would never (insert life goal here)”.
I look at this photo and think how dare anyone, including myself, place limits on a 7 month old. How dare anyone look at the sparkle in her eye and place limitations on what she will do?
I’ve done that. Her teachers and school have done that. Not with malice, but with a weird kind of kindness. It is sometimes kinder to accept Bridget than to challenge her. It is sometimes easier to place her in a wheelchair than to slow down to her pace. It is sometimes faster to dress her in the morning than to wait for her to dress herself. None of this is wrong, in each individual moment. Yet every time we take the easier route we are actually undermining Bridget’s future potential.
I put Bridget into Special Olympics because we are not athletes but we are outsiders. We love to hike, to camp and to David’s unlimited patience participate in “fun” obstacle races where I have to train for 12 months and he just has to show up. We are active, we want Bridget to be a part of that life. So we push her, even if she hates snow. We live in New England she has to adapt. Even if she hates the sand, we torture everyone with taking her to SNK to she can stand on a blanket but no longer scream that she is even within 20 feet of the sand.
I am the mom most likely to torture my child because I want her to be part of the world and not an observer. I don’t want to set limits. I want to set goals and let her crush them.
I joke about the differences in my children. I say David would wrap Bridget in bubble wrap yet go skydiving with Abbey and shout out from the safety of the plane: Do you have your chute? In all seriousness, we both walk the balance beam of parenting between providing the blocks of independence and the fear of them jumping off the boardwalk.
Jimmy Buffett wrote in a Pirate looks at Fifty, “Parenting is learning experience. In a way we are no more than good camp counselors to our children, guiding them through the woods”. I only hope that as I guide Bridget I also give her the tools to be a part of her camp and not just a spectator. Ultimately that has always been my goal. For Bridget to be a part of her community and not the crazy aunt in the attic that only is seen during family photos.
As I feared the year of being 50 and only having so much time left to make Bridget as independent as possible while acknowledging she will always need support, I found these pictures. In the moment when time is starting to tick away for me, I realize I can either be her bubble wrap or her advocate. I needed those photos to kick my perspective back into focus.
I’m not good at bubblewrap. I am good at recognizing the spark in that photo from when she was 7 months old and building on it. So pity party is over. The planning committee has begun. I will lay the groundwork for Bridget’s success. I’ve come to the realization that I have control issues. I have had such control of every aspect of Bridget’s life. I make all of her decisions. I have to not only plan for the next 6 months but the next 6 years and beyond.
Because I have to plan for the day I am not here to be her bubblewrap.