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Archive for February, 2010

The Lucky Boy

Meg and Blaise were ten and twelve years old when their little brother was born.  For months I had worried about the effect he would have on their lives.  I worried that they would be jealous.  I worried that somehow hewould take something away from them;  that our lives would change so dramatically that they would be left off balance.  But it never occurred to me how much they would affect his life.  It never occurred to me just how lucky this child was to be born into an already seasoned family.

I gauge his experiences against theirs and realize his was different from the very moment he was born.  When the older two were born they came into a quiet world and lead a quiet existence that revolved completely around their needs.  They spent most of their early days at home with me.  They learned to play with each other and though there were groceries to buy and errands to run their schedule usually dictated.  For Zane, this was definitely not the case.

When he was two days old, he was at the soccer field while we watched his sister win a three foot tall trophy for juggling a soccer ball 972 times and catching it on her neck.  Since she one of the youngest players and the only girl in the competition, you can imagine this was not exactly a soothing atmosphere for a two day old baby.  Right from the start his schedule revolved around theirs.  He napped in the car, ate in the car and more often than not was changed in the car.  We only half joked that he would learn to walk on a soccer pitch.  And we were only one third right.  He not only learned to walk on a soccer pitch, he also learned to sit up and crawl there.

Though I might have predicted that his life would be different than his siblings, I had no clue how much he would get out of having such a big brother and sister.  I had no idea how much they would adore him and how much time they would spend not just entertaining him but caring for him.  I am always amazed when I come down the stairs to find him cuddled beside one of them on the couch, deep in conversation.  I love the days when I hear Megan, now thirteen years old, being three again as she plays chase with her little brother or I watch Blaise carrying him on his shoulders.  And I feel blessed when Zane cries and I am not the only one he runs to.

Zane was born to two parents but ended up with four caregivers.  And though I know he loves it most of the time, there are times when he isn’t quite so thankful for the gift he was given.  Where Meg and Blaise were able to get away with things while I was busy in the other room, it is much harder to hide from four sets of eyes.  As much as his siblings dote on him, they also feel a responsibility to help him to learn.  They don’t let him get away with being rude or mean and they try to guide him out of trouble.   And though he might not see this as a blessing, I definitely do.

I am a worrier.  It is what I do.  But when I look at these miracles that are my children I wonder why.  Why did I spend so many months before he was born worrying about my older children?  Watching them I realize it was for naught.  Things work out.  Usually better than I could have ever hoped.

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Wisdom and Serenity

As a young child I knew my mother was different.  I knew that she was not like other moms and that it was my responsibility to defuse situations as much as possible.  It was my job to protect my younger brother and sister, to step in when she would start fights with my father, to help her write the household checks so she didn’t become overwhelmed.  I accepted that responsibility without any knowledge that I would eventually resent it.

That resentment came in high school.  Not when my mother decided to turn our lives upside down and leave my father for another man or when over the next two years I went to five high schools.  I was used to our lives revolving around my mother’s whims.  Instead the resentment came when my mother decided she was an alcoholic.  She had not been diagnosed as bipolar but after all the years of crazy she needed something to blame for her behavior and alcohol was as good a cause as any.

After all of the years of putting up with her erratic behavior, all of the times I told teachers and doctors that my mom was crazy and I did quite literally mean crazy, after all of the times I had defended her behavior to our extended family, suddenly I found myself hating the life I was leading.  I no longer wanted to be responsible.  And instead of being the obedient child I had always been I scoffed at her attempt to “recover.”  I knew she wasn’t an alcoholic.  I knew she was using the program, the way she had used friendships and even churches for years, to put the focus back on herself.  Life had to revolve around her.  And so, I rejected everything about the program.  Some things I rejected more than others and even years later I found myself smirking at the Serenity Prayer that was said at every meeting.

Lately, my mother’s life as spun out of control again.  She has made the same poor decisions as always but this time she has used one of her children in the process and even after all that we have been through, I find myself wondering how she will dig herself out of this one.  Worse still, I find myself wanting to fix it, to pick up all of the pieces of my sister’s heart and help mend them.  I find myself wanting to pull my mother into my arms and tell her that this isn’t the time it won’t get better.  I want to reassure her, without hurting her.  But I can’t.

Yesterday, I was mulling over all of this as I walked through our snow covered streets.  I found myself planning it all out.  I would drive down to North Carolina and fix this mess that my mother has once again caused.  And out of nowhere these words popped into my brain.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

These words meant nothing to me twenty five years ago because I had to change everything. That was my role in our family.  I was the fixer.  That hasn’t changed.  I live hundred of miles away from my family.  Yet I am call for even the smallest detail of my mother’s life and I have always been the one who steps in and defends her while gently guiding her back onto the right path.  It is what I do.  It is why my family thinks of me as the uptight sister, the self-righteous sister, the bossy sister.

After forty one years of living as the fixer, I have decided to ask God not for the courage to change the things I can.  I have that in spades.  Instead, I ask him for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to stand back and let my mother sink or swim.  I ask him to hold my hand and tell me everything is going to be alright.  And I ask him to give me the courage to believe He is stronger and better equipped than I am to help my family through this.

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