Ten years ago, the girls were one and three years old. They were all chubby cheeks and sleepless nights. We were living in our first house, our “starter” house. I was learning a lot about plumbing and painting. I had been working part-time for a friend at her baby boutique, taking that crash course in working with a baby and a toddler in tow like a number of other moms I knew. Weeks earlier, I had come down with what I thought was the flu. I ended up hospitalized for what the doctors determined was myalgia, or extreme muscle pain, as a result of influenza A. We were wrong. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was just beginning a journey into disability that would test my mental strength to its limits and would last over a decade.
Five years ago, the girls were six and eight. They were curiosity and energy on wheels, bright and challenging and fun. I was on wheels, too. A wide variety of tests, experimental medications, and exploratory biopsies had failed to solve the mystery of what was affecting me, and I was switching between walking canes and a wheelchair. I had homeschooled the girls as long as I felt able and I had loved it, but it had come time to enroll them in our local school. By this point, they had been in school for a couple years, and I was starting to realize that we were heading back to homeschooling. Both girls were bored, and our youngest was definitely unhappy. We had a sneaking suspicion that she was on the autism spectrum, but attempts to get formalized services for her hadn’t been successful. By June of that year, we had the withdrawal paperwork ready to go.
I’m over 40. We finally figured out that I have fibromyalgia, and now it’s in remission, controlled with medication. I’m able to work full time again and I’m loving it. We’re in a new house, one much closer to our ideal with its passive solar design and several acres of land. I’ve come full circle, as once again I find myself learning a lot about both plumbing and painting! We homeschooled for a year, during which our youngest got a diagnosis of Aspergers. That knowledge in hand, we were able to meet her needs much more effectively, and both girls are now in their fourth year in the new school district and they’re thriving. They’re eleven and thirteen, and the realization that they aren’t really that far from flying the coop is pressing down on me. It’s a busy and exciting time of life, and I’m determined to enjoy it to its fullest. Life has had some pretty big bumps, but we’ve had some pretty big blessings, too.
Try as I might, I know I’m going to blink.
Five years from now, the girls are going to be eighteen and sixteen. Our oldest will be in her first year post-high school. She may be in college. She may be traveling. She’ll be learning how strong she is, and that she can handle this being-an-adult thing, and maybe that Mom did actually know what she was talking about. Whatever she’ll be doing, I know she’ll be following her own path. Our youngest will be in her junior year. Probably immersed in school and theater and friends. I’ll be staring down the barrel of the oncoming empty nest, and no lie, I’ll be freaking out. And I’ll be rejoicing. We will have raised resilient, hardworking, joyful kids. They will remind my forty-seven year old self to hold onto those traits within myself as I start a new stage of life, a woman with time on her hands and a life to live.
We blink, and the years pass with incredible speed. We get maybe eighty years on this planet. Maybe even a hundred. We get just a couple handfuls of years to raise our kids. This time of my life is messy and busy and stressful, and I love it. The new year always puts me in a reflective state of mind, and I’m inclined to make a resolution: Don’t blink.