I see it everywhere on social media– moms mourning the growth of their babies. Facebook statuses and Instagram commentary on the eve of our children’s birthdays or the first day of school. Teary notes as we pack away baby clothes. Right now, the hashtag on Instagram #timepleaseslowdown has 33,689 current posts. And it doesn’t help that we are constantly told to “savor every minute” and reminded how fast time flies by well meaning neighbors. It contributes to this idea that our kids growing up is bad, something to be mourned. Trust me, I’m just as sappy as the next mom when I flip through old pictures or find an old paci in a sock drawer. But sometimes, when we cling to the past more than we hope for the future, I wonder if we’re losing sight of what parenthood is all about.
When I’m not at home, trying to convince my three-year-old that she cannot, in fact, wear her Easter shoes in the snow, I work as a pediatric physical therapist. I work with kids whose diagnoses run the gamut from simple developmental delays to life-long impairments like Cerebral Palsy and Down Syndrome. Regardless of the age or diagnosis of the child, I spend the bulk of my time assessing what skills a child has and what they’re lacking, discussing with parents their goals for the child, and how we’re going to get there. Our purpose is to move their kids forward, and we celebrate every milestone, no matter how big or small they might be.
So last week, I took a kick to the gut as I sat on the floor with a mom holding her three year old, body and bones thin from lack of movement. We were reviewing their therapy plan and goals and the mom said, “I’m not going to be around forever. I just want him to be able to hold his head up.”
Holding his head up. While I was bemoaning my kid outgrowing his rock ‘n play last week, there are moms (and dads) battling insurance companies, shelling out thousands of dollars in co-pays, spending hours upon hours in therapy sessions so that their child can hold his head up. I see it everyday in my office, but something about the simplicity of this mom’s request was a wake-up call for me.
Hear me out, this isn’t another morally superior “open letter” to moms. I’m also not asking you to pity the parents of special needs children– they are SO proud of their kids and what they can do. But can we not play victim to time anymore? Or spend too much time wallowing in self-pity? There are mamas out there who would give their right arm to see their kids achieve a new milestone. Watching our kids grow up is a blessing not bestowed to all. It is to be appreciated, not to be mourned. Our kids having a “last” also means there was a first– let’s celebrate our kids where they are and relish the hope the future holds.