In the last several weeks, I have found myself either tearing up or just flat out bawling an inordinate number of times. I think it started with the impending close of Jimmy's kindergarten year. First there was the kindergarten celebration wherein each kindergarten class sang a couple of songs (I didn't stand a chance), followed by their little diplomas being handed out (more waterworks from little Jimmy's crazy mom in the back); then there was the awards ceremony (full on tear-age happening there); next was the last day of kindergarten and the handwritten note from Jimmy's teacher to him: "James, Reach for the stars. Do your best. You can be whatever you want to be. Mrs. Thompson. June 2009." (OK - I'm actually tearing up just rereading this. . .). And then the beginning of summer and swimming lessons, etc. etc. . You get the picture.
Finding myself so completely undone on so many fully public occasions left me wondering what in the world had become of me - the girl who very seldom cried at movies or other life altering events a scant half decade or so ago. I decided to try to trace things back to when all this teariness started. I went back nearly a decade to my wedding in search of tears. Nope, no tears there (I think even my husband was a little astonished by my stonewalled but blissful facade). Fast forward a few years to the birth of our son: no tears upon being admitted 9 weeks too early for a severe maternal/fetal illness. . . but the tears were not far off at that point.
It was when the doctors and my parents collectively decided the baby had to be delivered immediately, and I stubbornly conceded in utter disbelief and horror - it was then, as I was being wheeled back for a surgery to deliver my baby that was too early, that the onslaught of tears began. Because little Jimmy was stable when he was born, I was allowed a few seconds to see him before he was whisked back to the NICU. . . I remember studying his face and strangely not knowing what to feel. There were no tears then. I couldn't even grasp this whole crazy event that I had not planned for which was happening before my very eyes. How do you emotionally cope with such a tiny though seemingly perfect precious little being that is yours, when you really don't know if they'll survive and what the future will hold for them? It's almost like your subconscious tries to keep this new little being at bay (for fear of the worst) so you won't begin falling desperately in love. . . so you won't be hurt in an irreparable way.
Despite my shock, the waterworks soon resumed with a vengeance. The next time I saw him, they had wheeled my whole bed into the NICU to see him (the nurses and doctors obviously thought I was more capable than I felt I was at the time). I remember looking around at all these tiny babies and praying mine wasn't one of them - praying my baby was a big fat little guy. When they pointed him out to me I stared out him and studied him for a moment - crying, and then having to turn away - unable to understand and maybe even accept that this teeny little creature was mine to care for. Of course he was not mine to care for immediately, he had 39 days in the NICU where the staff there cared for him and taught me how to do the same as we both recovered. From that first visit to see him, to walking back and forth between the Ronald McDonald House and the hospital to see him several times a day, to the day he was finally discharged - there were moist eyes and at times, full on crocodile tears.
When we arrived safely home, the crying resumed with unprecedented regularity. I cried because Little Jimmy had made it this far and had overcome some crazy stuff. I cried because I felt inept at caring for him. I cried because he cried. I cried because he suffered different ailments that were the result of his prematurity. I cried because I felt more exhausted than I knew a human being could ever live with. I cried in frustration, and in worry, and in relief.
. . . And the crying continued. I cried at every milestone, and every setback. I cried when his apnea monitor (a machine that makes sure the baby is breathing) went off different times even months after bringing him home from the hospital. I cried when he smiled, and when he laughed. I cried when he sat up, crawled, and walked. I cried when he began sleeping in a crib and when he was moved to his own room. I cried when he turned one, two, three, four, five, and six. I cried when he went to storytime for the first time. . . and preschool. . . and kindergarten. I cried when he succeeded at school, and I cried when he struggled. I've laughed so many times at things he's said that I've cried even then too.
I'm finally noting the trend. Kids = Mommy's Tears. I've heard it said before that when you have a child, it's like walking around and living your day to day life but with your heart outside of your body. . . and it's so true. When I was little, I remember watching different shows with my Mom (per say, Little House on the Prairie) and her crying anytime children were involved in any sort of conflict or struggle; I remember her saying, 'You just wait until you have children; your whole world will change." While I certainly don't consider myself to be the most intrinsically maternal person, I can still say she was right - my whole world has changed. . . and for the better.
So yes, Little Jimmy, I'm afraid your stuck with your crying mother at every school event and personal milestone in your life; it's just that I'm so proud of you I can't seem to contain myself- and obviously I don't!