Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mama, will you be at my wedding? (on being an older parent)

I never planned to have a child one month before I turned 42. I never imagined I'd have to answer the question my 8-year-old son posed to me tonight:

Mama? Will you be at my wedding?

He expressed this fear after telling me he doesn't want me to die, and then later he asked me how many days until my birthday. He must be realizing that I'm an older mom. Most of his friends do not have moms who are about to turn 50. I wouldn't be surprised if he told his friends and they expressed shock at my age.

My soul collage
How could he know that my aging and his youth have been in the forefront of my mind recently? He is such a sensitive soul, and I fear the day when he will lose his parents at a younger age than most of his friends and his brothers.

How could he know that I did a soul collage about this topic with a close friend a few months ago? The topic was fear. I expressed my worries about Nicholas and the losses he will endure in his life...about the fact that I might not be alive when his children grow up...about how my heart grieves every time he asks me, "how old will you be when I'm 50?" and I know there's a good chance I won't be alive.

Nicholas is such a sweet, sensitive soul. He craves love and attention (his usual mantra if we have to go out for an evening meeting or a night out is "you're always leaving me!"). When we came home from a meeting this evening talking about how cute a friend's baby was, he expressed his disgruntlement. He has always disliked it when we've called ANYONE else cute. He's the cuteness factory himself.

He's had a hard year...he loved kindergarten and first grade, but after first grade he began a sort of mini-OCD stage with a perpetual fear of throwing up and catching e coli (so he's a thorough hand washer and hand sanitizer user). It's improved quite a bit since the beginning of the summer, but he still carries big fears inside of him and says he wishes he had the "old Nick" back (the one who didn't worry about throwing up). And he's not enjoying second grade nearly as much. It's much harder, with not as many "fun activities." And he sadly asked us to remove the red-and-black polish I put on his fingernails this summer (Trail Blazers, at his request) because some of the other kids were teasing him about it.

First day of school
(one of the oldest moms in the classroom)
On his 8th birthday recently, we gave him the birthday card at the bottom of this post. When we read it together, both of us ended up crying! He said it made him feel so loved. (I also made my 18-year-old cry on his birthday, when he watched the video I'd made about his life. I guess it's my ritual.)

When Nicholas asks me questions like "will you be at my wedding?", I can't help but think of friends and family members who've battled or are battling cancer ...or who had children when they were older than me...these questions must haunt them too, to an even greater degree.

With this sweet, sensitive son of mine
I know too much about life's fragility to promise Nicholas I will always be around. But I also can't be brutally honest with my scared 8-year-old, who knows his parents will not be around forever. So I tell him, fighting back the tears, that I will do everything I can to be there for his wedding. (And pray that he gets married before he's 40 or 50!)

My sweet questioning son is a constant reminder to savor every moment of life, for we don't know how long we will have on this earth. I remember my friend Laurie's lament that she wishes she'd spent more time with her 4-year-old son Zacary on his last day on earth. If only she'd known.

I also ponder the fact that Nicholas is drawn to tough, macho male particular, Indiana Jones, WWE wrestlers, and recently Trail Blazers basketball and Rocky. He loves to take his shirt off and flex his muscles, trying to look tough...amusing since he's such a skinny thing! I think he's trying to battle his fears and reassure himself he'll be okay. Maybe he'll develop some superpower to keep his old parents with him as long as possible.

He who is my little boy...

The card that made us cry!

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