When you become a parent, it’s like looking into the eyes of perfection for the first time. I remember holding each one of my children the moment I had them and thinking, there could not possibly be anything more beautiful or perfect in this world. It’s completely overwhelming and inspiring.
As they grow, you quickly realize the heart ache that comes with the job. Whether it be a failed attempt at trying something new or having to watch them nervously walk into the classroom on that first day. No matter how big or small, there is heart ache for us parents. We find ourselves having to let go for a little bit and watch from the sidelines until they are back in our arms. And that spectator position is new territory. And, at most times, an uneasy feeling.
From the start of his school years, we have had the joy of watching Tanner truly become an individual. With his outgoing personality and natural humor, he has always made friends quickly and has always felt comfortable being a leader among his peers. I am in awe of him most of the time and marvel at his confidence. However, there is one thing that he has found himself dealing with and it is one that breaks my heart. And if you have followed this blog for very long, you probably remember me writing about this before. Remember that beautiful and perfect being you saw for the first time? It has never and will never change. But when others see it in a different way, it is a struggle. For both parent and child. And it seems especially more so as time goes on.
The very first time an older student made a comment about Tanner’s ears was in Kindergarten. Making a very simple and matter-of-fact statement that Tanner’s ears were in fact, “big”, Tanner’s response was one that blew my husband and I away. “So. It doesn’t matter”. Such strength out of such a tiny person. You’re right, Tanner. It doesn’t matter. In time, it was one of those learning and bonding moments and we moved on.
But I have found that as time has gone on and the few more times he has dealt with it, the reaction isn’t as simple. The reaction isn’t as confident and the subject is brought up at home more than it used to be. Watching your child deal with any type of hurt or pain is unbearable. Of course, my answer will always be that he is perfect. That there is absolutely nothing wrong with him. But as a parent I also know how cruel the outside world can be and how hard it can be on someone so young. I know because I went through this myself at his age. I always tell Tanner that he and I are the special ones in the family. Despite it being a random and odd reason, it is a bond he and I share. Along with his Grandpa Jack who I shared the same bond with for so many years and who understood how I felt as a kid since, he himself, attempted to tape his ears back at one point to avoid comments. I am trying to do the same for Tanner. I am trying so hard. But I look at this perfect child, knowing that he is absolutely perfect and that he will some day realize it, but I wonder how far to let it go. How long and how much do I let him deal with the problem? How much do I let it jab at his confidence? How long do I hope that he is able to deal with and handle it the same as I did?
So, as a parent, where do we draw the line? Where, when and how do we decide if something should continue to be a learning and growing experience or perhaps it’s something that is a little too much to bear? Or should we ever allow our children to think that there is another alternative? It is so hard in those very near and far moments that we deal with this current problem because I know how simple a procedure it is. I know because I used to want it for myself. I would have given anything to have my ears pinned back and never hear another comment made again. But is that sending the wrong message? Is it too extreme a jump to make sure that your child doesn’t have to bear a burden? Is it simply being a parent to want to take the pain away in any way possible? Or is it being a better parent allowing them to go through things like this?
To be honest, I can see where the flirtation with this metaphorical line can be dangerous. As parents, I’m sure a lot of us have come across these situations and it is scary how times have changed and how vanity has become a monster in the lives of our children. Heck, even for us as adults. I have known young people who have had things done that, is probably safe to say, was more vanity driven than anything else. But is it hypocritical for me to stand here and say that my son’s “issue” is a completely different situation than someone wanting more of a figure? Probably.
Man…parenting. Such a learning experience and such heart ache sometimes. For now, the comfort consists of the wiping of tears, long embraces and story telling of things I went through and the fact that I survived. In my heart, I truly hope that it’s enough. I truly hope that his confidence is enough. And I hope for any other parent dealing with their child’s struggle, physical or not, knows that they are not alone. Here is to hoping that our little pieces of perfection can hold strong and bear the burden no matter how big or how small. Because as a parent, the level of hurt is immeasurable. It’s all the same and we are all fighting the same fight.
(photo by Edmund Prieto)