Eyes on the Prize

January 24, 2015

I always thought that I would look up to my son someday. Literally. Since his paternal grandfather is the height of an NBA shooting guard, and I am the tallest member of my immediate family, I figured he would get closer to dunking than his dad ever did. That he would not need to ask for assistance when reaching for top shelves at Target. That he would not have to perpetually consider the height added by heels before asking a girl out on a date.

But recently, I’ve received news that these predictions might be off. I don’t want to get too specific at this point, but on Wednesday we will consult with an endocrinologist and take a few more tests. However, it appears that Elliot is low on a protein that is supposed to help his toddler body grow. This makes sense. It would explain his lack of teeth at over 18 months and the fact that his height and weight have fallen off all growth charts.

When Sara told me the results, I experienced a wide range of emotions. Fear. Disbelief. Disappointment. Relief at finally knowing. Frustration and even anger and not trying to test these things sooner. Confusion. Determination at finding more about what it all meant.

I went online which helped and didn’t help. It certainly triggered more emotions. It made me hopeful one minute and paranoid the next.

Another emotion I experienced was guilt over being so affected. When we were still trying to figure things out, I directly asked the pediatrician if he saw any possibilities that would affect Elliot’s long-term health. He seemed to indicate that there wasn’t reason to think there would be anything life-threatening. This brought me comfort.

My reading seemed to confirm the pediatrician’s assessment. That there was a range of quality-of-life issues, but that he would be okay. So I felt a little guilty for my angst over my son’s size. There are obviously much bigger problems and much greater struggles. In fact, there is a very slight chance that he may be less likely to get cancer because of this condition. But nevertheless, my son, my perfect son, probably has a condition. And though I experience many different emotions depending on the day, or hour, or minute, or the size of the kid next to him, the one I feel as I type is this—crestfallen.

But as I type that word, which I never found much use for until now, I find myself fighting back. It’s like when I take Elliot over for a meal or another “opportunity” after he has thrown food off of his tray. He stiffens his legs, he arches back, he will not go gentle into that good high chair.

When Sara and I talk about this at night, I hear myself saying surprising things. Things that come across as unsupportive or even uncaring when they leave my lips. But, while I talk to her, I’m also talking to myself. I sound very new-age-y or like I just attended some motivational seminar. That his limits may be his strengths. That he won’t fall into the trap of trying to feel normal because of his obvious differences. That we can give him such a strong foundation that he won’t feel deficient.

I may be completely naive about this, but this is what I choose to believe. I believe that somehow, the love that this kid gets will make whispers roll of his back. That it will give him the confidence to push harder with each dismissive glance. That he will take any laughter aimed his way and re-direct it so that a room can laugh together.

I didn’t think it was possible, but somehow, I’m going to start loving this kid even more. To meet whatever condition he has with a recklessly unconditional love. And the little dude is easy to love. Easy on the eyes and the heart alike. When he watches his mother and sister and asks for a “nuggle”, an uncontainable love pops from his tender soul. When his eyes sparkle as he runs away with a red pen he isn’t supposed to have, he makes mischief look adorable. When he utters his 289th word, he feels satisfaction without even knowing why. He is fully confident. A believer in the world and in himself, and I will kick, and cry, and throw food off of my tray to help him keep this sense.

The world can be a cruel place. It can damage you and leave you incomplete. It certainly has done this to me. Yet there are people out there who seem to rise above the refuse. People who are self-possessed enough to handle their differences with fearlessness. People who don’t let their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, physical disabilities, learning differences, or any other differences limit their capacity for joy.

All of this talk, in fact, may be a non-issue. We won’t make any judgements on growth-hormone therapies until consulting with the endocrinologist and others. However, there’s a reasonable chance we may choose to go that route. This would bring up a different set of challenges, but I think that giving a child the love he needs to develop self-confidence will translate regardless of the circumstances.

To some extent, this technique has worked with Alice. She isn’t perfect by any means, but I can tell she has a self-confidence that I can’t ever remember having. Of course, other than being on the small side for her age and acting out 20% of her life as a kitten, she doesn’t have any significant differences from other kids.

But no matter what happens, I have this belief that Elliot will grow up to be a happy, self-possessed, charismatic kid who makes the world a better place. It won’t be smooth sailing all the way. His sparkling eyes may be glazed with tears from injections or insults. I may occasionally see his dark curls running away from me towards a soon-to-be-slammed door. My faith may falter as I try to protect him from being hurt. But I choose to believe that, regardless of whether he is 4’8″ or 6’8″, Elliot will be a son I look up to.

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4 Responses to “Eyes on the Prize”

  1. Debbie Says:

    If as many tears were shed writing this as I had reading it, we should buy stock in Kleenex. Elliot will be fine, but the unknown, and projecting scenarios do give pause. Whatever is found out, he couldn’t be an any better hearts and hands than you and Sara’s! (And his loving extended family, who treasures that boy!)

    • teachiro Says:

      I started this blog shortly after the new year began, but couldn’t finish it until now. You’re right about the unknown being the rub. I am learning that I am a control freak of sorts, and not being able to make everything right for my kids is going to be tough. Fortunately, the whole loving family thing is clearly taken care of. No anxiety about that for any of us!

  2. Hilary Says:

    Elliot stole our hearts the day he was born, and he does it again every time we see him. I’d write more but I can’t see the keyboard . . . love and prayers to you guys, especially this week.

    • teachiro Says:

      Thank you so much for the prayers and for all that you do for E and the rest of us. I have no doubt that M & S will look out for their little buddy. Hope the keyboard is okay. If it’s not, we may owe you dinners out for the foreseeable future.


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