I want to write a love song.
I want to write a love song to the men my boys will become. I sit here surrounded by the chaos of our busy and fast-flying lives, and I want to stop now to tell those men how very proud I am of who I know they will be. I don’t want to wait until that day that I am dying to say these things, I want to have every day of my hopefully long life guided by the knowledge that this song is inside me and that someday they will hear it.
It’s important that they hear it. As a family grappling with special needs, our days can be so harried, so moment-to-moment, so full of assumptions and things taken for granted. We struggle. We all struggle each and every day, each of us wearing the pressures in our own different ways. Our house is not picture-perfect. Our family doesn’t have two-cats-and-a-dog blissful scenes by toasty fireplaces. These years are difficult. Draining. Numbing. Our youngest walks through this world with hidden the brain injury of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. In addition (though not the focus of this blog), our eldest has been struck with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’s weariness.
As parents, my husband and I are feeling our way forward over a landscape much different than that we could have anticipated when we stood in late-afternoon sunshine on a bridge in those heady days of our unexpected mid-30s romance and revealed to each other the wondrous secret that we both wanted a future with children, when we started to realize in earnest we might just walk that path together.
And here we are, more than 16 years and several thousand miles later, a family. Day by day, moment-by-moment, together, we are moving toward those two men I see in my mind’s eye. Our youngest shines and sparkles and loves on a grand scale. Our eldest is resilient and giving and positive. I forgive myself our inadequacies because I know with my whole heart that these two men-to-be are being forged out of these intensity of these days. I celebrate all that our sons are now and all that they will be.
It’s also important for the world to hear this song I wish I could sing. Yes, we are sharing our experiences more publicly. But we don’t want anyone’s pity. We don’t want anyone’s admiration. We are not the stars. We are not saints. In fact quite we are quite far from it. Yes, we have adopted a child whose special needs profile has been unfolding over time, like a twisted up picture we are beginning to untangle. Yes, his needs have added complexity into our world. Yes, it can be horrendously hard some days to juggle it all. Yes, I may at times shout out at the unfairness and I may feel bitter that doors were closed to our youngest before he ever drew a breath. Yes, some days I may admit I am tired and scared and feeling overwhelmed.
But please, for this moment, hear my song. The one I want to sing. Give it whatever soundtrack inspires you. Look with me toward the future at those men-who-will-be. See THEM. My god, they are awesome. They are awesome because of these days that are so difficult.
Yes, in a different scenario we might have been that picture-perfect family with matching sweaters, visiting art galleries and fine restaurants and delighting sophisticates with our children’s latest recitals. (Well, okay, that’s a literary excess. If you know us, I guess you know that was never really destined to happen.) But like that much-loved and imperfect Velveteen rabbit, our family is Real. We wouldn’t have it any other way. And these men-to-be are the best of our world. They are the best of us.
In addition to all that he is in and of himself, by being big brother to a sibling with FASD, our eldest has learned the importance of compassion, sweetness, and careful guidance. He has learned to know the difference between what we can change and what we must accept. He has learned to see people in their entireties, to understand that even below the most horrendous words and actions, a person can be crying out for help. He has learned that we never doubt love even when – especially when – we can see its imperfections. He understands that it’s okay to admit that sometimes it’s hard, but that still we can celebrate the funny side of things. He has learned the importance of nurturing himself while looking out for others. He has learned, through his CFS, to take things slowly when that is called for and has seen how this applies also to his interactions with his brother. He has learned to use time wisely. He knows that education takes many forms, and it doesn’t all happen in a school. He has learned there are many ways to judge someone’s abilities, and most of them have little to do with test scores. And he has learned to love unconditionally. This is a man who will stand by his family. This is a man who will lead with gentleness, humour and purpose. This is a man who will be an outstanding father (if he so chooses), brother, cousin, friend, nephew, and of course, son and grandson. This is a man who will be a good neighbor, co-worker, and community member. This is a man I would recognize anywhere, just by looking into his deep brown and understanding eyes.
Our youngest will be a man of energy, of light. He will walk with a spring in his step and a smile. He will dance with delight when he lets the music guide him. He will help others around him with tasks big and small. He will be a role model for and supporter of kids, a goal he has consistently held for the past several years. He will grow into a deeper understanding of his own self. He will learn to show the complexities and nuances of of who he is and what gifts he can offer. He will love, he will cry, he will play, he will have moments of deep frustration. He will learn to accept the support and help around him. He will struggle hard for his own independence. He may have setbacks. He will be bitter at times against the hand he has been given to play, but always he will find his laughter. He will move forward. Through his amazing talents, he will grow. I would recognize this man anywhere, the one holding out a hand – giving as he is receiving. He will be a powerful and strong soul, whose determination will get him up those mountains and who will soar downhill sometimes on purpose, sometimes without holding on to the handlebars – but his life will be exhilarating and spicy and rich. He will be a good friend and companion to those who love him wholly. He will be a contributing member of a loving community. He will be a good partner when the right person comes along, and he will always be a loving brother, cousin, nephew, maybe a father someday, and always a deeply loved son and grandson.
I love these men-to-be. On those days somewhere in their futures, when they feel down or low, or remember these crazy days of our struggling family, I want them to hear my love song blasting in surround sound, or whispering quietly in a desperate moment. I want them to hear the confidence I have in them. I want them to breathe in my hope and joy at all they represent. I want them to swaddle themselves in a melody-memory and hear my strength across the years. I cannot promise their lives will ever be easy. In fact, I know that they won’t be. I know it will be hard, very hard at times. However, I can assure them, always, that their lives will be rich in the most important ways. I know this, because I know them. I see those men in the youthful eyes I search every day.
I want to sing them a love song, just like I did when they were little. Sweet, sweet children of mine, of ours. You are all that I could ever have wanted. All that I could ever have imagined. You make waking up worthwhile. Knowing you are dreaming peacefully brings me deep satisfaction at night. You are the best of all that I could possibly be. I love you. Now, and forever.
There are no ‘buts’ in this, no regrets, no wanting do-overs. I love these two. Our two. Now, and always. That is the song. My song for my men-to-be. It’s a symphony. Blasting across time and space.
Or, maybe, since we never made it to the concert halls, maybe it’s just an ear-worm, a simple song that plays itself over and over and over and over again inside your head. A melody you can’t shake. Some tune so deeply lodged that you find yourself at strange moments humming or dancing along to it without even realizing what it is that has made you move. Some upbeat, simple-lyricked tune that just won’t lose its grip on you.
Whatever beat you set it to, you like it because you know it.
My song is a love song to the men I know will be.