I grew up in a simpler time, in an idyllic town, with a picture perfect family, in a neighborhood that I cannot seem to replicate no matter how many times I pack up and move. My young childhood, though not without typical childhood struggles, set the gold standard.

I remember during my pregnancy, dreaming about the little blonde surfer boy doing somersaults inside my growing belly and praying that I might provide for him what my parents did for me. I think most new parents hope that for their children. The best parts of their childhood, or better.

Little Man turns 8 next week and I have been thinking about my own life at that age. The summer I was eight, I was readying myself to enter Mrs. Renaldi’s third grade class (she was not only mine, but everyone’s favorite teacher), camping out with my girl scout troop, baking for the cake walk at the neighborhood Opening Day party, and riding my bike to sneak into the Bay Club with my sister or some of our neighborhood friends to go swimming. Life was good.

I know that 8 might not seem that old, but he has already begun his reluctance to show affection, his interest in all things “cool” and his general disinterest in anything that Mom thinks might be cool. He doesn’t call me Mama much anymore. He’s growing up. But he’s growing up without so many of the things I had. His anxiety has kept him from classes and playdates and birthday parties and his friends have all faded into blurred memory oblivion. His warped perceptions cause him to believe he is not well-liked. A perception that could not be further from the truth. He spends more time in anger or worry or stress than I have spent in a lifetime. In fact, at 8, I cannot recall a time that I ever felt the way he does for longer than maybe a day.

Now, as I watch the Pinterest-worthy, glossy photographs of kids playing sports, arms around their buddies, with silly toothless grins and I cringe. I see parents of other 8-year olds excited for the start of school as it will give them a few hours a day to indulge in their work or fitness or social life or expressions of self and I curb my envy. I see happy families enjoying a movie, or a concert in the park, or an amusement park or the beach and I die a little. I want more for him. I want more for us.

I wonder what Little Man will remember. I wonder if the two years (and counting) he spent imprisoned within himself will fade into oblivion. I wonder if he will feel guilt or regret. I wonder if he will recall his childhood with nostalgia, as I do, or if he will know all the things he missed out on. I wonder if he will question the numerous family photographs from which he is absent because he simply couldn’t leave the house that day. And the worst part, I wonder if he will ever fully recover.

Childhood is short. Period. Parenting is tough. Period, yet again. Or maybe it should be an exclamation point. Regardless, Little Man has had many fantastic experiences. And he has also spent at least 2 years of his very short childhood cooped up at home, ill and angry and anxiety-ridden. And that sucks. Period.

Throughout this journey, I have found myself tirelessly placing one foot in front of the other, child in tow, while the land crumbles beneath me. My feet slip continually but I know I must reach the elusive summit before I blink and I must ready my child to take flight all on his own. No parachutes allowed.

I have always been true to my Aquarian nature, marching to my own beat and choosing the path that veers ever so slightly. It isn’t in my nature to want the white picket fence or the soccer mom status or the 2.5 kids, dog and cat. But the truth is that for once in my own unconventional life, I wish things were “normal.”

But they aren’t. And they will never be. I don’t say that out of anger or frustration but because it’s a truth that demands acceptance. And though that truth sometimes saddens me, my sadness doesn’t help anyone. Especially not my son. Besides, my Mom always told me that normal was nothing more than a dryer setting. So, while Little Man might never be the brainiac at school or the star on the soccer field or even the gifted artist in the back of the class maybe, in the not too distant future, he can be better than I ever dreamed.

Hugs and Healing,

Mama Bear