Sometimes life is wave after wave of hits, not just common hits like a cold or few sleepless nights but hits that knock the wind out of you.
I remember when I was a kid we used to visit the Jersey shore every summer. One year as I was playing in the waves I was facing the shore and not paying much attention, I looked up at my sister who stood a few feet in front of me and saw a look wash over her face that had me turning quickly to see what horror must be behind me. I should have stayed put because in that moment I giant wave and I came face to face. Salt water filled my nose, my mouth and my eyes, the undertow ripped my feet out from under me and I lost my equilibrium. To say I felt fear and panic in those few seconds under water would be an understatement. I didn’t know which way was up, I couldn’t find my footing and what had once been water that came to my knees was now far above my head in the depth of the wave. I did surface, probably not very long after going under to be honest (though in my mind it felt like forever). Once I sputtered and coughed for a time, releasing my mouth of the salty seaweed filled water I was able to laugh as I remembered the look on my sisters face and relived the excitement of being alive after my close brush with certain death (dramatics are necessary when telling this story, keep in my mind I was probably less than 10 years old at the time).
I think back on those days of simple summer joys and triumphs and I see what childhood should be. The endless days of nothing to do, the sand that seems to go to eternity just waiting for sand castles and bare feet; the waves that are aching all winter long for the sound of little children’s’ giggles and splashing hands, and the warm breezes that come just when you seem to need them the most. There is nothing like the feeling of walking through the sand collecting shells after a day of sun and play, your hair smelling of sea salt and fresh shampoo, it’s like nothing I can describe. It’s being alive. Even the sting of a the first burns of the sun can’t diminish the joy of seeing that beach laid out for your enjoyment, knowing you have a whole day to splash, build castles, surf and gather hundreds of shells. Childhood summers should be like that… and if the world were perfect it would be for everyone. Instead, sometimes those waves aren’t the memorable fun things they used to be, now they hit and the force leaves you breathless, the undertow threatens to never release you and though you can vaguely see the sun shining somewhere up there, try though you might, you just can’t reach high enough to cut through the water.
I talk a lot about Josh, we all know that. What I don’t say, in any of my posts, but what haunts me, and claws at me under the constant thrash of waves is my second born. The child forgotten. How will all of this affect him as he grows? How many times will he be put second to the needs of his brother, will he ever forgive me for the hours of attention that his brother requires, the constant strain for my time, the guilt that lashes me every time I hear his voice saying ‘Mummy, I want to come too’ even though I know in my heart that he can’t. How many hours have I already missed because of the steady stream of appointments, the weeks of his life that have already been spent with someone other than me because his brother needs me more in those moments. I see his childlike mind thinking up ways to gain my attention, his struggle to find a place in a family that is swallowed up by the constant threats of CHD, stroke, tests, surgeries, therapy and I wonder if one day he will hate me for it. Will he ever know the depth of the guilt, the ache of the loss of time with him, the full scope of my unconditional love for him? His summer is filled with shuttling him from A to B, his summer, just like Joshua’s can’t be bought back. The stress affects him too and yet too often he’s forgotten. Josh is shown love, attention, and gets a steady stream of encouragement, while Kaleb sits and watches. Is it any wonder we are having trouble with his behavior? Is it any wonder that he is grumpy far too often. I am unsure what to do, how to be the best Mum to both of these boys who both have such different and yet equally pressings needs and demands for me, my time, my energy and my love.
Today was a ‘hospital free day’ for Josh, but he was still sad all day and it required my time and attention. We did experiments with leaky cups to show why fixing a leak is so important, and we spoke at length about his heart, the hospital and his fears. Tim came home and had to run errands for the church and it required the car and a number of hours and I actually felt relief when he offered to take Kaleb with him. What kind of mother feels like that when clearly he needs me now too? I have gotten a lot of emails after yesterdays’ post, encouraging me and offering prayers… this is not a post aimed at getting emails to tell me what a great Mom I am. It’s an honest look into the heart of a Mum who just doesn’t have it all together, who isn’t everything she needs to be to her two kids, and it’s an honest look at what being the Mum of a Sick Kid looks like when there are more than one involved. I appreciate the support, the encouraging words, don’t get me wrong but I would be dishonest if I tried to pretend I am some kind of super Mom, or worse, a Mom who treats her children equally. In this I fail the worst. My youngest often falls through the cracks, those waves that are tugging me often pull me further away from him and I don’t know how to get back to solid ground, with him safely in my arms.