I don't like to talk a lot about my oldest son's food allergies.
After watching the Lego Movie approximately 16 times, I have decided that I might just be a little bit like Princess Unikitty.
"Any idea is a good idea except the non-happy ones. Those we push down deep inside where you'll never, ever, ever, EVER find them!"
Girl, I can SO relate! And, hey, I like living in Cloud Cuckoo Land. HAPPY THOUGHTS!!! POSITIVITY!! No frowny faces! No bushy mustaches! I'm there! If I don't think too hard about his allergies, all of those thoughts don't bring all of the feelings up to the surface. But, the summer brings lots of reminders of living with allergies- cookouts and picnics and playdates at the park and block parties galore- not to mention the annual trip to the allergist. The poking, prodding and the dreaded waiting for the results.
So, last week I woke up and I just had this feeling that "today was going to be the day."
The day the allergist letter comes in the mail.
(dun, dun, duuuuunnnn. . .)
Even though the doctor says to give them 6 weeks and the appointment was just about three weeks ago, I could feel it. The letter was coming.
Sure enough, when Philip was upstairs putting his laundry away and I ran out to check the mail and there it was.
My hands were shaking a bit when I opened it. The allergist had given us some hope this year, citing that allergies to multiple foods were statistically very rare and he was doubtful that Phil would show a continuation of his allergy to eggs and tree nuts in addition to peanuts as he had in the past.
I unfolded the letter and scanned the numbers eagerly, looking for that magic zero somewhere. My heart sank, all of the allergies were still there. Still avoiding all peanuts, tree nuts and eggs. Retest next year. IgE levels, blah, blah, blah, business, business, business, numbers. Really, no change to our lifestyle, but I didn't want to have to tell my sweet little boy the news. I went inside and puttered for a minute when I heard him from the stairwell.
"Hey, Mommy, did you get distracted?"
"No, buddy, I'm on my way. I just had to check the mail.
Your letter came today from the allergist."
"Hey, Philly," (I took a deep breath and looked him in the eye.) "you didn't outgrow any of your allergies.
The numbers are all still there.
I'm really sorry. . .
I was really hoping that you would outgrow some."
"Yeah, me, too, Mommy."
I could tell he was trying to be brave, but his eyes were starting to well up with tears. He was biting his lip and looking away, and his voice was starting to shake. I put my arm around him as we sat there on the staircase.
"Sweetie, how do you feel about it?"
A tear slipped down his cheek.
"Sad. I feel sad, Mommy. It's just that eggs, eggs are in everything! They are hiding everywhere. I . . .I was just was really hoping I could outgrow it."
Underneath his sadness, I could also sense his anxiety. Even though his nut allergy is so, so much more severe, the eggs are his first concern, because they are, as he puts it, "an ingredient." You can't see it, smell it, or taste it to know the egg is there. Plus, it is an ingredient in just about everything delicious Phil loves. . .cake, cookies, pancakes, muffins. . .the treats at basically every celebration everywhere. And no matter how yummy and fabulous your mommy's egg-free baked goods are, Phil is old enough to know that he is different. He has to wait for his special treat, ask questions, be on alert. He handles it so well, but being different isn't always easy, and even at 7 he knows as much. His eyes have welled up before asking me why he has to be different, and it breaks my mama heart.
As we sit on the steps, my arm around my sweet oldest boy, my heart is sad, too. I have learned to live with the anxiety. . .that constant, underlying, on-edge feeling when we are any place new, any place with food, and place with people who don't know us, or, EEK! All three. I have learned to deal with the anxiety by being vigilant, being prepared, educating Phil and just praying to God to protect my sweet son. Phil has many guardian angels right here on earth watching out for him, and for that we are so blessed. Daniel is his number one guardian angel and protector, and who better to look out for you than your brother and best friend? But even though I can manage the fear, I was surprised by the sadness. The sadness is new- I didn't have it when he was a baby or a toddler and he didn't understand the severity of his situation. Just since he is older, and now he is starting to understand the weight of it. He "gets it". He has feelings about it, and when we talk about it my heart just absorbs all of those feelings. His pain is my pain, his sadness. . .mine. I guess this is what being a parent is all about.
But, being different teaches him important lessons, too. He's wise, compassionate and insightful, and also the biggest little optimist I know.
"Well, Mommy," he says, as his voice starts to transition from wavering to chipper. . ."there's still a chance I can outgrow it, right? Maybe next year!"
"Right Philly!" (even though I am not so sure, Princess Unikitty is going to jump right on board with that.)
"And you know what, maybe someday there will even be a cure! And then you won't even have to worry about it at all."
"That would be great! Now," (pointing at the swim trunks I have been holding in my other had this entire conversation) "are you going to go put Daddy's swimsuit away or what?"
I reach out and feel his trusting hand in mine. I clutch it as we go up the stairs, holding on just as tightly to the hope that things will be okay, and someday, yes, someday. . . they might be EVEN BETTER.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future
"I am kind of sad Noah is a baby TODDLER now. I kind of like normal babies better. I wish I could keep him a baby forever, but he keeps growing."
Daniel made this observation as we watched little Noah toddle around the backyard this morning, arms out like a teeny Frankenstein, a joyful laugh as he navigated bumps in the landscape without a fall. He's growing so fast, as observed by my also growing-so-fast five year old whom we jokingly call "Great Dane-iel" when he tries to crawl into bed or onto a lap to cuddle.
And tomorrow, my baby boy, Phil, turns seven.
My firstborn son, who changed my whole heart and my life forever with his entrance into the world, will be in big-kid land, the so-called "age of reason." I feel nostalgic, of course, but also I have to admit I feel a little teeny bit robbed. People bring it up as a conversation filler, "oh, yes, time goes so fast. . .blah-dee-blah. . .wow. . .he has grown. . .yada, yada" and as I nod and smile and agree my heart cries out, "SERIOUSLY!!! YOU ARE NOT KIDDING!! WTF, TIME, WHERE DID YOU GOOOOO!!?????"
Since it is not really socially appropriate I don't normally say that part aloud, but I am totally confused by the passage of time. I can't help but feel like someone deceived me. Time seems to be slipping away faster and faster as the days go by. A cruel trick like this can only have one man behind it. . .Stefano Demira.
Just kidding. But seriously. Who is stealing the Days of our Lives? TIIIIIIME??? WHY YOU PUNISH MEEEEEEE????
On one side I am bombarded by well meaning grocery store shoppers informing me to "enjoy this time, it goes so quickly" and self-help articles about "how to maximize your time" and a facebook feed full of sentimental blog posts about "oh, how precious it is!!"
OH MY GOODNESS, how I know!! My eyes fill with tears and I nod my head and I agree with every word spoken about time. Yet all the while as I try to grasp it, it slips all the faster through my hands.
Since the birth of baby Noah, it has only accelerated, pushing me into wistful tear-up mommy mode on a regular basis. While days home on maternity leave with newborn Philip seemed to go on forever, I would feel as though I had just gotten Noah up from his nap and enjoyed merely a moment before it was time to set him down again. When we got out the Christmas decorations last year, I had the strangest feeling like I had just put them away. This is not me trying to be cute- NO, SERIOUSLY. I had a freaky and off-putting moment, like, I just packed these, why am I getting them back out???? The last two weeks of kindergarten crept up on me so quickly and quietly that I had no idea they were coming until they were RIGHT there, staring me in the face, mocking my unchecked list of imagined adventures for our year. Nails and hair are trimmed and grow again the moment they are cut, pants creep up above ankles that are no longer chubby, teeth fall and out and come right back in. Faces change unnoticed until an old photo reminds you of the squishy cheeks, strings of drool, and wispy little curls that once graced them.
Of course, my boys are so beyond thrilled about growing. My heart aches, and simultaneously bursts with pride as I witness it. It's a joy that has a twinge of pain, that pain that comes any time we are involved in letting go. Josh pumps himself on the swing and catches right up to his brothers, Noah bursts with joy as he climbs to the top of the playset, Daniel and Philip check out books on their own library cards and read to the younger boys. My days are filled with, "Mommy, Look! Look at me! Look what I can do now!"
Yet the look-at-me days that seemed so luxurious in my own childhood go by in a blur. Most of my want-to's end up getting replaced by have-to's. . .my perfectionist tendencies draw me from the idyllic parenthood I hold in my mind. . .probably crafted for me by a Country Time Lemonade or Cheerios commercial years ago. It seems that despite my best intentions, in the march of time I only manage to grab moments. A glimpse of sun dancing in the backyard, a lullaby, a tender moment between two of my sons. But, perhaps, that's why lemonade and cereal commercials are only 30 seconds in the first place, and that's really all I need. I go back over and over to Glennon's "Don't Carpe Diem" post, which reminds me very much of one of my spiritual heroes, Henri Nouwen. All in the fullness of time.
"But sometimes we experience the fullness of time. That is when it seems that time stands still, that past, present, and future become one; that everything is present where we are; and that God, we, and all that is have come together in total unity. This is the experience of God's time.
It is in the fullness of time that we meet God." - Henri Nouwen
Real time may slip by too quickly, but I will relish the moments where time stands still. Where I meet God, and for just a moment, I get to hold Him as the clock slows. He's cuddled in my arms as tears are wiped away, loving words are spoken into a mess of sweet blonde hair. That moment is savored before we part ways and I go back to my dishes and He to His Legos.
My Philip too, was lamenting how quickly our time with Noah has gone just a few weeks ago. "I wish we could just keep Noah a baby forever. Then we could always have a baby. I just love babies."
I nodded my head in agreement, imagining how much I also wanted to keep Philip little, too. Before I could speak, he went on. . .
"But, you know, some other babies might come into our lives, and we can enjoy them. And someday (he gets a twinkle in his eye) WE will have babies, and then you will be a Nana!!" (twinkle turns to giant grin and we are both giggling. . .)