Despite my best efforts there are two things I have been terrified of since my son was born:
1. that he would suddenly stop breathing in his sleep
2. the day someone hurts his feelings
The first is more than likely not a realistic fear. The second is inevitable.
Today was his six-month check-up and while we were sitting in the waiting room we met 8 year old Miss Gabby McChattypants - who happened to have the exact same hair cut as me (basic bob with blunt bangs). She took note of my son's brace and he took note of her bright turquoise shoe strings.
"He's got a brace too, Mommy."
"Yup. They're going to make his feet better."
"Just like Nathan?"
Then Mommy McChattypants offered me an explanation: her neighbor's four year old boy has club feet and has had a few surgeries recently. Almost every time we go out we meet someone who has first-hand experience with clubfeet or knows someone who has. It is comforting in a strange way.
"He walks like this" Gabby walks awkwardly without bending her knees.
"No he doesn't." The mom glaces up at me. She knows what I'm thinking (I'm assuming the horrified look on my face gave it away).
"Yes he does, when he has that thing on." Gabby insists.
"But he doesn't walk with his brace on." (Ok, Mrs. McChattypants, THAT doesn't make me feel better)
"Kids made fun of him in kindergarten. Remember? They said 'eww, what's wrong with your feet??'"
Grrreat. Just what I wanted to hear.
Then she went on to talk about big kids who ride short buses. The connection? I don't know, eight year olds don't use segues and I stopped listening to her as I daydreamed (nightmare?) about the kindergarten version of my son being made fun of because of his feet.
Then the nurse called us in for our appointment. The rest of our visit went very well, comparatively.
Anyway, all day I've been thinking about poor Nathan and his mean little schoolmates. I've given my son a million extra kisses as if that will make it hurt less when he runs into bullies later in life. But then I think about how he stood up to those two big bad nurses who poked him with needles today and I think he'll probably be all right. But I still give him extra kisses, just in case.
Fast forward to today:
Miss Gabby McChattypants is now 12 and still clueless about the unintentional beating she gave my heart that day. My son is now almost five and starts school in just a few weeks. Looking back on this chat four years later I realize there are a few things I know now that I didn't know then:
I didn't know how charming, easy-going, generous and likable my son would grown up to be. He makes friends easily and gives grace to those who are "still learning how to be a good friend." This doesn't mean that EVERYONE likes him, or that his feelings are never hurt, but he is more resilient than I ever imagined.
I didn't know that my son could also be that mean little kid. It never crossed my mind six months into this parenting gig that bitter words could come from those sweet lips. Oh, yes. I have learned to extend grace the best I now how to that mean little kid (or the overly chatty one, for that matter), because today it may be YOUR kid but tomorrow it may be MINE committing the offense.
I didn't know that kids would think his braces are cool and ask their mommies where they can get some like his.
I didn't know how years of clinical treatments would cultivate a heart of compassion in my son. He is well acquainted with many "real heroes" and says that maybe someday he will grow up to help people, as long as he can do it where his dad works so they can be together, of course.
In short, I didn't know all the good things that would come of all this. Today I see a few of these things and I am thankful.