Pandemic parenting has been full of imperfect moments, and some imperfectly perfect. When the pandemic started we knew that our family needed to keep our bubble small. One of our sons is medically fragile and we have no idea how this virus would affect him, so we did what we felt was best and stayed home. Even when our school district opened up in the fall with in-person learning we opted for distance learning. Our oldest son is in fourth grade and although he misses his friends and the structure of school as he knew it, he understands that his brother's health is a priority for our family. Being home nearly every day this last year has brought about many conversations regarding his little brother.
He has asked me on numerous occasions if it's hard to care for his brother as he watches me program the feeding pump, carry his forty pound body up and down the stairs, or struggle to get his flexed feet into his pants. He's been privy to the constant care and attention his brother needs for the last year. He's watched me try to juggle schoolwork, virtual appointments, and daily cares. He's heard me say, "when I'm done with Christopher," more times than I can count. His curiosity and questions have grown over this last year.
I recall one conversation where he asked, "what if I have a child like Christopher one day?" I was drawing up medications with my back turned to him and told him that it was probably slim, but when he's older he can do testing to see what the possibility was. He pushed me a little more and asked, "but what if I do?" I just looked at him and told him that he probably would know exactly what to do. With a smile he simply said, "we really are lucky." This is when I almost burst into tears. I know that having a brother that requires so much out of me can't be easy. I know that having a brother with special needs comes with many challenges. Then he asked me something I didn't expect.
He asked me, "what if Christopher has a child like himself?" Christopher is severely developmentally delayed with a rare genetic condition. He's nonverbal, uses a wheelchair, doesn't sit consistently, has a feeding tube, and more. It surprised me that my ten year old didn't see all of the impossibilities for him; the innocence of children is astounding. I told him that his brother won't ever have children. I told him that Christopher will never have a partner in life or get married or experience many things in life that he will. I could see his wheels turning as I tried to keep it all together. When I turned my back he said, "maybe I just won't get married and I'll take care of Christopher."
I couldn't help it. The tears came and I couldn't stop them.
This last year has come with more challenges than I ever expected. Parenting three very different little boys and trying to give each one of them exactly what they need has been difficult. I've had moments where my patience was nonexistent. Moments where I dropped the ball and one of the boys didn't get the attention they deserved. There have been days when I can't imagine doing it another day. Most importantly, there are days when I worry that our typical boys will resent their brother for taking so much time. I worry they'll resent him for taking a lot of our attention. It's safe to say that mom guilt has been heavy this last year.
But that morning I was reminded that in the middle of the mess, the middle of the imperfect moments, we must be doing something right. We must be doing something right to have a moment like that.