Matt, Adam, and Josh on Matt’s Wedding Day, October 20, 2007
Becoming and being a mother is an awesome thing. It is, usually all at once: wonderful and frustrating; maddening and gladdening, laugh-out-loud funny and cry-inside sad; endless and way too short; chaotic and peaceful; noisy and silent; intimidating and courage-building…so many things. But most of all, as I said, awesome.
I entitled this post, My Three Sons, not to leave my husband and their father out, but because my perspective of and relationship, as a mother, to our boys (now men), is my own, and belongs to no one else. This is true of all families, and should be. I became a parent for the first time at the age of 26, which was both too soon and not soon enough – another dichotomy of parenthood. It was too soon mostly because I really was not grown up enough nor prepared to be a mother (who ever really is?), and not soon enough, because motherhood is certainly a “you better start growing up, and fast!” experience. Gone were the days of only self- and/or spouse-interest, and in comes almost complete other-centeredness. You find your own feelings and needs suddenly much less important, and often completely over-shadowed by the needs of your children. It is a wonderful and sometimes lonely, isolated time.
I’ll begin with the births of our first two children, because both my husband and I [:-D] were present for, and experienced them, and then with the entry into our lives of the third. Don’t worry – no long, painful labor and delivery stories here. As both my husband and I have said, that most often can be considered a “sharing violation.” What amazes me about Joshua’s and Matthew’s births, and Adam’s entrance into our lives, is how completely different they all were. Almost nothing about them was the same, except that they were all conceived in the usual way, and came to be, from the inside, out. I simply could not get over the fact that we noticed at the instant of their birth that they were born with already-formed individual, unique personalities. I’ll admit to being totally ignorant that would be the case. I just assumed that when children were born, they are sort of amorphous beings that must be shaped into thinking, aware, and complete beings. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Not only were they different inside of my womb (didn’t find that out until the second came along), but totally different as they burst forth into their somewhat “independent” life. Suddenly we had other total individuals to which we had to adapt, and not the other way around. And the adaptations were also diametrically opposed to the others. Such mysteries are the plans and designs of God..
My first experience as a Mom was relatively easy (though it took some getting used to), and I had decided, that despite some problems, parenthood was pretty much of a snap. Josh was an easy child – that’s not to say he was passive – far from it! – but that, maybe because he was an only child at the time, I found him fairly simple to adjust to. I even went so far as to think that I had this “parenting thing” all figured out…so let’s have another one! Twenty-seven months later, we did, and my “come-uppance” (and real growing up) began. Matt had a mind all his own (well, they both did, but you know what I mean), and was quite willing to invoke that will upon us at any time, and whenever the mood struck him. He simply would not be denied, and could not be ignored. Because of his quiet nature, Josh easily contented himself for the most part, but Matt had to be “entertained.” Yes, Matt had ideas of his own, but almost always wanted everyone’s complete and undivided attention while he acted them out. While nursing him, (and he would have stayed glued to me 24 hours a day, if I had had the strength or will), as soon as he could lift his hand up and hold on to my face, he would turn it toward his, and insist that I watch him every moment of the process (and he would make sure it was a long one). While Josh had been quite content to just get his nourishment while I perhaps read a book or magazine, or even snoozed a bit, Matt had to have my completely devoted attention. I remember both times, after their first teeth had come out, when they first “bit” me. Josh looked up at me with a look that said, “Is that OK?” (He found out that it definitely was not!) Matt bit, and looked up at me and grinned, practically shouting, “That was fun…I’ll make that a habit!” (He found out he most definitely would not!) One similarity between the two, though, was that they were delighted with and in each other. There has never seemed to be any real sibling rivalry. Of course, they had the usual fraternal squabbles, but they were short-lived, and generally ended peacefully with a little “time out.” When both were in high school together, because of their radical differences in personality, they generally stayed away from each another, but only for that brief time in their lives. Otherwise, they have always been very close, and concerned for the other’s well-being. We, as parents, are especially blessed in that way, and from observing other families, know what a blessing it was and is.
Adam came into our lives, and became our son in a totally different fashion. (And it definitely became and is a “butterfly memory.”) When he first started college, at the same school both Josh and Matt attended, the three of them began a friendship. Adam was, again, very different from Josh and Matt. He had been raised in a totally different atmosphere, and perhaps because of his overtly extreme intelligence, he had been, for the most part, acting as the adult and care-giver in his home, even as a young boy. His mother became ill with multiple sclerosis while he was still in high school living at home. Adam’s father divorced his mother, and she married another man, and had a child with him. It was a difficult atmosphere for Adam, and because of his step-father’s inability or unwillingness to take care of her, Adam became the chief care-giver for his mother. Adam also has an older sister, who struggled/struggles with problems of her own (and has three young sons). There was also some alcohol and drug use going on within the household. All-in-all, not a family-friendly environment. Adam suffered with guilt and some remorse at leaving his mother and little brother behind in order to go to college, but he also understood that unless his mother began to take some control over her own well-being and her household, she would never be able to survive, were anything to happen to him. So he ventured off to a college out of his home state, and met our family. We had instant rapport, and enjoyed each other’s company and deep conversations. As he had always craved a somewhat “normal” family life, a family that remained intact, loving, and tolerant, he decided that he wanted to come and live with us. So we said, “Come on!” (The college was in the town where we lived at the time.) We had empty bedrooms, because both Josh and Matt decided they wanted to stay in the dorm, living on campus. So, about 16 years ago, Adam became our son, not by virtue of blood or legalese, but by the Grace of God. When we were transferred to another town after three years, Adam decided he would move with us, and continue his schooling in another place or another way. He got different jobs, and participated completely in all our family activities. He was indeed our son, and Josh’s and Matt’s brother. During the time that he was living at our new home, his mother succumbed to the MS that had plagued her for many years. After that, he basically then broke off contact with his birth family (except his sister and nephews for whom he assumed a great deal of responsibility, and he was not allowed contact with his 1/2 brother) with occasional forays back to test the waters. None of these tests, to date, have proved successful. Yes, it is sad, but we are also joyful that he was able to bounce back from so many strikes against him and become as successful as he has become. He is now pursuing his MBA, as well as being an executive with a cellular telephone company based in Chicago. He was promoted and transferred up there this past summer, and we miss very much our regular contact with him; although “texting” can be a very effective way to communicate, and often! (He is often too busy to call or answer our phone…but he does text! Ahem and harummphh, Adam!)
My three sons are attached to me (and their father) in different ways – as different as their personalities are. We are often amused at how when they call or text, that though they sometimes have the same things to tell us, they most often share completely different issues or questions and comments, and Ashley and I have to relate to each other the individual conversations we have had with them. Our conversations occur frequently with Matt, less frequently with Josh (he lives closer to us now and we can see him more often), and even less frequently, by phone call, with Adam; however, the bonds remain as strong as ever, and continue to grow and mature, as we all do. They are my three sons, and I am intensely proud of them and all they have overcome and accomplished and are still accomplishing in their lives – and all three have gone in separate directions – surprise, surprise! Of course, there are no better sons or young men in the world. That goes (almost) without saying, although I tell them and the world as often as possible. At the same time, my pride is mixed with the understanding of how little I really had to do with it all, and what tremendous blessings God placed into the center of my life: two seemingly by our design, and one seemingly by happenstance. Each day I grow more confident in the immutable truth that God designed and planned it all for our mutual blessing, enrichment, encouragement, and joy. My parents, my brothers, sisters-in-love, and my parents-in-love; all of my dear, dear friends – they are also my family, that God gave to me as a precious gift to cherish and nurture. I cannot go to sleep at night, nor rise each morning, nor live through a day, without being grateful for all my many blessings – especially My Three Sons.