I never wanted kids. I didn't actively not want them. Having children just wasn't on the radar for me. My husband desperately wanted them and that excitement rubbed off on me (giggity.) I got pregnant on our honeymoon (I almost said "we" there but who are we kidding?) with George.
George came into this world when our family was in turmoil. Mark and I had been laid off a month prior and we had no idea what we were going to do. We had to beg our previous employers to "fib" and say we were still employed so they would keep us on the insurance longer (with a hefty premium, of course). We were young, and idealistic. We started a business and we didn't have health insurance. We started a business right before the market collapsed. We carted George everywhere as he was our little man. Our sunshine in the rain.
I have always felt guilt over that pregnancy. I felt that George didn't get the excitement or attention (in the womb) that he deserved because of our daily stress. I was always envious of women who simply glowed from pregnancy while I was wasting away under the anxiety of how we were going to support our family and the stress of a fledgling business.
Henry was my second chance at that. Mark had an amazing job that provided us with great benefits. The business was doing well and George was thriving so we decided to try to have another baby. When Henry was conceived, we were elated. Then four months later, everything came crashing down again. More guilt and more anxiety. I would clutch my baby belly and try not to let the dark thoughts win. I know now that I am prone to those dark thoughts so it's still amazing to me that we made it out of that.
When I was four months pregnant with Henry, we had a major cancer scare. After months of dr's appointments, crying, dipping in and out of depression, and concerns that I wouldn't see my children grow up, we made it through. My family and I made it through. More precisely, though, Henry and I made it through. We had become teammates but I didn't know it at the time.
I carted Henry everywhere just like I had done with George. My boys grew up in the car with me, singing to songs they liked, telling me ridiculous funny stories, asking "how many courthouses today, Mommy?" My fellow examiners as well as the courthouse employees reveled in their growth and were delighted to see them every time we walked in the door. I was known as "George and Henry's Mom" and I am perfectly ok with that. I realize that I am fortunate. Not many mothers get to experience their children's lives like that. I am spoiled. I do a job I am good at but can barely tolerate simply to be there with them and for them.
When George went to school for the first time, I was upset. I cried all the way home. As we had walked I must have looked like a mess. I am sure a few neighbors thought my husband and I were having a fight. I just wanted George to want to hold my hand a little longer. My little man was growing up and that crap is hard.
But I had another little man at home. One that had been through hell and back with me. One that I had fought fiercely to protect in the womb. So dropping George off at school got easier. My time with George got more precious. Henry and I went about the daily business of work while waiting for George to be done with school.
I would type up my reports with Henry in a sling while sitting at my desk until he got too big and squirmy. We would snuggle and nap together. We would go to see George at school together. I would take him into the courthouse in the stroller and have ladies coo and squeal over him while I tried to sneak work in. I was stressed but looking back, it was an amazing time.
Henry grew and grew. He was a giant little man and he just content sitting there watching the world walk by. He made no efforts to roll over, crawl in a regular way, or walk on time. There were concerns over development until a more experienced doctor chalked it up to Henry simply being content. He sat up at three months, he rolled over for the first at 18 months, he crab crawled at seven months, and he walked around the 19 month mark.
Even now, Henry walks to the beat of his own drum. He makes up plays in his head and then acts them out. Sometimes, when asked, he's Henry but a lot of the time he's Ironman or Optimus Prime. When we are on the road and we see a yellow Camaro, I still hear, "look Mommy, it's Bumblebee!" He wonders if regular tractor trailers transform into autobots when no one is looking. He is rough with his brother until George is hurt and then Henry is genuinely concerned. Loving, beautiful with a ridiculously cute smile. I used to love to kiss his fat beautiful baby cheeks and I still do. His laugh is like a machine gun and so infectious. He likes to take advantage of our liberal language rules at home and makes everything into a fart joke. He sticks up for George on the play ground even though George doesn't need it or necessarily want it. Even now, I have a hard time convincing him that he needs to wipe his own butt because he thinks it looks "weird."
I have been trying to convince him that he will love school. I have been trying to get him excited. I know he will love it and I know he will thrive but he sees right through my facade. He knows I am upset about it even though I try my hardest not to show it.
"I don't want to go to school, Mommy. I will miss you. I don't want you to be alone."
Even as I type those words, tears stream down my face.
How will the world treat this beautiful, sensitive little man? How can I protect him from being chewed up and spit out?
I have major concerns about Henry going to public school. Before George went, he was a much happier loving little man but it almost was like the light dimmed in him. Having fun and being free spirited gave way to structure and discipline when it didn't have to. Childhood should be about dreaming, laughing, learning, and loving.
I absolutely cannot stomach the thought of a teacher being annoyed at Henry's imagination. I can see his beautiful little face when I fuss at him. I see his little chunky hand go to his mouth as he starts to cry. I cannot stomach the idea of that in school when I am not there. I cannot stomach the idea of him being fussed at when he goes to school simply for him being him. I cannot tolerate the idea of the light dying in him as it did with his older brother. It makes a fire burn inside of me.
But mostly, I cannot stand the thought of him not being here with me. It's all selfish and it's all about me. If I considered the fact that he will have a great time at school, and that was my only consideration, I would be fine. This is about me, though, and I can't seem to push my way through it. My partner is leaving. He won't be in the courthouse with me anymore. He won't be making MY day better with his jokes and love. I won't be experiencing every single moment of his life and I will be alone. I am spoiled and selfish. I know this.
They don't tell you, when you get pregnant, that 18 years is not enough time. They don't tell you about the bitter sweetness of watching your children grow up in front of you. How your life slows down a little while theirs speeds up. They don't tell you about the guilt. About the luxury of hindsight. They don't tell you that you wish you would have spent more time with them instead of reading that book. Or that you would regret every instance of irritation and temper. They don't tell you that everything you do from the time the child was conceived could have been better, more focused on, more relished, and more appreciated. They tell you to take time for yourself but they don't tell you that if you do take that time, later in a moment of weakness you will regret that too.
In the end it's selfish but that's all I have. I can only understand me and I am miserable. I find myself counting the last days of us being together like a countdown to doom. I try hard to find the positive and see why it will be amazing for him but fail completely at seeing that side of the equation. Everything seems so final now. The last vacation before he goes to kindergarten. The last time we will be together before he goes to school for the REST of the time he will be under my roof. I have had him for five years and his brother five years before that. That is something I will absolutely never get back or experience again. It feels like everything from here on out will be in terms of the business of raising them to be men. They no longer can just be children. It's time to buckle down and start framing them into what we think society wants.
George has gotten a second chance at learning how to love...to learn. We have sacrificed a lot to put him into an all boys middle school that focuses on teaching boys to be boys without the stigma of...well being boys. It's hard to describe, especially since my brain and my glasses are fogged. I am excited, again, for George to be in a place that supports whoever he wants to me without the stigma of being what society thinks a man should be.
This new school requires a lot of parental involvement. While signing up for some volunteer positions tonight, I found myself thinking "what will Henry do while I am volunteering? Will he be happy to just run around at my feet? Will he be good for an hour?" I realized, then, that he wouldn't ever be running around under my feet again. He would be in school, starting his own story, and I will be forced to the sidelines as a secondary character instead of the primary character I had been for five years. And I cried.