Monday, March 14, 2005

my son...

is turning 18 on Friday, which makes me very sad. it also makes me sound very old. I suppose I am getting up there. I'm not ready for him to be 18 and I don't think he's ready for it either, no matter what he thinks. all mothers probably feel this way though.

I was 18 (almost 19) when he was born. it was nine months after I had graduated from high school. his dad and I had been married for four months and were living with his parents, who were the nicest and most decent people I had ever met.

I remember the day he was born so clearly. I can still feel his tiny, newborn body in my arms. he was the first good thing I had ever done and I knew from the moment I saw him that I would do anything for him. he was born with pneumonia and a severe case of jaundice. he spent five days in the hospital after he was born. the first two were spent under an oxygen hood, the last three under the bilirubin lights trying to clear up the jaundice.

his beautiful blue eyes were covered to protect them from the lights, his tiny heels were full of little razor cuts from having blood drawn to test his bilirubin levels and he had a tongue depressor taped to his little arm to keep his IV in place. it was the saddest thing I had ever seen.

we could only hold him to feed him and he wasn't really eating that often. when he finally came home, I didn't ever want to put him down. I took him everywhere I went, I couldn't get enough of him. I had never felt so much love for another person, I didn't even know I had it in me.

he was a wonderful baby, so sweet and easygoing. we didn't really see any lasting complications from his earlier health problems, for which I was incredibly grateful. he did have a lot of trouble with ear infections when he was a lot younger, and strep throat, but other than that he was pretty healthy.

my wonderful baby turned into a wonderful boy. he adored me as much as I adored him, he was very affectionate and sweet and funny and outgoing. I hated to be away from him, even for a few hours but I knew I had to give him room to grow up and become his own person. it was so hard to send him off for his first day of preschool. he just waved and told me goodbye and ran off to have fun and play and meet new friends.

I was so proud of him and at the same time, felt so lost without him. eventually I learned to manage without him for a few hours. after all, I had his little sister to keep me company. and she was as sweet and funny and adorable as he was. his first day of kindergarten was a little easier to handle but not much.

he loved school then, and did really well. he made friends easily and got good grades. he was even invited to participate in the gifted student program at his school. and somehow that was the start of his decline. his teacher at that time was not working in cooperation with the gifted class teacher so he got twice as much work as most of the kids in his class. his grades slipped a little, and then a little more. between ear infections, strep throat and sinus infections, he started missing a lot of school.

someone in my family suggested that he go to an allergist to see if allergies were the reason he was sick so often. we found out that he was highly allergic to: dust mites, mold, grass, trees, pollen, cats, dogs, horses, and rabbits. and that his immune system was in terrible shape. he had to get allergy shots every week for about three years to try to build up his tolerance to all the stuff he was allergic to and to strengthen his immune system so he wouldn't catch every virus that blew through our town.

healthwise, he showed a big improvement. school was a different story. he continued to miss a lot of school and then didn't make up the work he missed. his grades went from all A's to C's and D's. in middle school, he failed a few classes and had to go to summer school twice. he was threatened with failing 8th grade but didn't seem to care. anyway I think it was just a bluff.

high school didn't get any better, in fact his absences were more and more frequent. his grades were awful, well below his abilities. there were mornings when we had to physically drag him out of bed and to the bus stop. he would cut classes and hang out in the lunchroom or go back home. when he was in class, he would not participate or complete his work.

I never really had a problem with him at home, unless it was related to school. I was at a complete loss as to how to handle him. the school administrators were little or no help. he would miss three or four days in a week before they would notify me that he wasn't attending classes.

he decided that he wanted to go to a different school, in Oregon, where his dad lived. and even though it broke my heart to let him go, I did. because I was willing to do anything to help him, even if it killed me. his dad and stepmom agreed that he could move out there but they wanted my word that he would stay with them for at least the rest of the school year, which was about six months. no matter how much he asked, I was not to let him come home. unfortunately, it was the same old story there. he wouldn't get up for school, wouldn't participate once he was there and their forms of punishment only made things worse the rest of the time. his dad wasn't willing to work it out and pretty much gave up on him after a month and sent him home in April. typical.

once he came home, he seemed withdrawn and depressed, which I had never seen before. I didn't push him to go back to school that year. there were only two months left. we talked about him getting a GED instead but the rules in Ohio are stupid and he couldn't do it. so in the fall he went back to school. he seemed to do well enough but then fell into old patterns. we had to go to a mediation session with the juvenile court system because the dean of students filed a complaint. at that session, it was explained that if another complaint was filed, he would have to go to court for truancy.

he seemed to want to improve after that but again, he couldn't pull it off. so yeah, we had to go to juvenile court, and he got a probation officer. and a social worker, who recommended that he be put on anti-depressants. things are better for him, schoolwise, but we've had setbacks. I'm very happy with his progress though, and his attendance is better than it has been in years.

he's not graduating this year, but we're crossing our fingers that he'll graduate next year. he's even been talking about going to college, which just about makes me cry. he wants to be a teacher.

our relationship has had its rough spots, but the good times outweigh the bad times by infinity. even though he is getting older, I still feel as close to him as I did the day he was born. we have an unspoken connection that nothing and no one will ever break. my firstborn, my only son, my reason for living when I had nothing else, I don't know where I would be if he and his sisters weren't a part of my life.

he knows that I would do anything for him and that I will love him no matter what. but I plan to remind him on Friday. I just hope I can find a card big enough to express it all.

3 comments:

dick said...

It is amazing how you write, in one short story I feel as if I know your son. He seems like a wonderful boy. The words I read were as if they were coming from me to my son. He is sweet and polite, an angel to me. I really couldn't live w/o him in my life.
I remember his first day at school I went home and just started crying, later I found out that happens to many parents. I'm torn between holding him like my child and treating him like the man he is becoming, so I try to do both. I really love your blog, and I will try to spread the word so more can enjoy it. You really are something. It's a shame his father isn't more involved, I can't understand how dads can let their feeling go. It would kill me to lose my son. I'm so happy for you that you have each other, you both sound like wonderful people.

Ben said...

Michelle,

What a wonderful post. Even though things have been tough for you and your son, you are a truly incredible mom. You're doing the best you can, and, as a former teenage boy who is now a 25-year-old "adult," it will all work out.

I was talking to one of my most difficult students a few weeks ago. He's a great kid, but he's a disruptive nightmare in class. In any case, he told me that he wanted to become a teacher when he grew up. After telling him that I thought he'd make a great teacher (which I do), I asked him why he'd choose that career path. "I want to be a teacher," he told me, "because I know how much kids like me need teachers who know and care. Like you, Mr. Gott."

I almost started bawling like a baby.

Tell your son that teaching is the hardest profession but that it's also the most rewarding. I know he's heard that from everyone everywhere, but it's the truth.

Love ya, love your blog. Keep it up!

-Ben

Todd S. said...

This part of your post "his beautiful blue eyes were covered to protect them from the lights, his tiny heels were full of little razor cuts from having blood drawn to test his bilirubin levels and he had a tongue depressor taped to his little arm to keep his IV in place. it was the saddest thing I had ever seen." brought tears to my eyes.

My daughter was born premature. She spent 12 days in the NICU. The way you described this just brought that part of my life screaming out of the recesses of my memory. The first night was touch and go. The nurses tried to reassure me, but truth was, no one knew what would happen. Jenyfer's mom stayed in her room, she didn't come to see her in the NICU until later.

But the walk from the delivery room to the NICU changed my life forever. There was this little baby girl in my hands. And I knew, that then and there I would do anything for her and do everything to keep her from getting hurt.

Life is simply an amazing gift.

Thank you for sharing a glimpse of yours. I love reading your blog.