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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Miracles Do Happen

My son is proof that miracles happen. My 14-year-old son recently got home from a 3-day trip with our church youth group to a water park 3 hours away from home. MY son. There are no words to describe how I felt as I ferociously hugged my boy to my heart before I sent him on his 3-day-away-from-Mama trip. I was so proud of him for wanting to go. I was worried I’d have to trek and fetch him early because he wouldn’t be able to handle it. I was nervous he wouldn’t take his meds. I was hoping he wouldn’t have a panic attack. I was so happy that he wanted to go on this trip, that he even wanted to try to go without me or Dad. I was so proud of my son.

Remember my son? The one who was born three months too soon, clinging to the cusp of life with the help of a ventilator. My tiniest baby- the one who squeaked in at just over 2lbs. My toddler who absolutely melted into a puddle of fear if a stranger even looked at him while we were out and about. Truly, if a stranger looked at him, he couldn’t function. He would cling to me as if his life depended on it, and usually burst into tears of terror. And if that stranger dared to mutter a “hello” to my adorable little boy, forget it. It would take me hours to help him recover.

My little third grader, who would wake in a panic at 3am most days, convinced he would miss the school bus that was due to arrive 4 ½ hours later. He would gather his belongings, wrap his coat over his tiny body, and have a meltdown that would last for hours. Until the school bus came, to be precise.

My son, who could not sleep. He couldn’t sleep at any age. Not as an infant, not as a toddler, not as a 9-year-old. Not until the psychiatrist gave us medicine to help him sleep. When parents contact me in desperation because their littles won’t sleep and they have heard that weighted blankets could help, I get it. I know the deep exhaustion that settles in your bones after years and years of no sleep, or at best, interrupted sleep. I remember my boy having panic attacks year after year when it was bedtime. No matter what we did. People said to let him cry it out. Let him scream. Leave him alone. The “Super Nanny” suggested putting him to bed without a word every single time he came out of his room. Over. And Over. And Over. And Over. To no avail. Doctors even suggested locking his bedroom door from the outside so he couldn’t get out when he was supposed to stay in. Yeah, THAT’S a great idea for a kid with an anxiety disorder! (not) We tried every single thing that anyone could possibly think of to get our boy to sleep. And noth. ing. worked. Until we had a prescription in hand that brings sleep to our son’s brain. It turns life off for a few hours so he can rest.

My son, who had so many panic attacks in middle school. He would cry at night because he was worried I would die, because every single novel they read in 6th grade English had a story line that revolved around a mother dying. Was there any compassion from the teacher? Nope. We got, “He’s got to learn to cope with these things.” Nice. We struggled through. My boy kept getting up and facing the impossibly hard days, one day at a time, until he got to this year.

Something has happened to him this year. He’s got it. He just ‘gets’ life. He understands how it’s all supposed to work. The change to high school has been an absolute success for him. He feels encouraged, supported, and valued there. He has more opportunities to be involved than you can imagine. He loves being busy, social, and making a difference. He has found an outlet not only through school, but also through our church. He has had the opportunity to be involved in service projects that impact our community. He has been able to have fun and grow as a spiritual being.

My 14-year-old just spent three nights away from me, sleeping not enough, but relatively fine. He did text me at 3:36 am one night (as I was up with his sister anyway, because none of our children can sleep), saying he was having a bad panic attack. But he texted back a few minutes later, saying that he was feeling better. Turns out, he accidentally took his nighttime meds in the morning, so he never got his morning anti-anxiety med. Hence the panic attack. But can you believe it? Three nights, away from home, without a parent, and he’s fine. Totally fine. (Although he did sleep for 17 hours straight when he got home. Did he sleep at all while he was away?? I guess that’s living, baby. Sometimes when you're young, life is too exciting and fun to waste time sleeping.)

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to go on some incredible trips with my church youth group. I saw and experienced things I never would have had access to without that group. Those experiences changed the way I see things. I was able to help people, reach out to people, and grow into who I was meant to be. I was able to be away from home, but still in a safe, supported setting. I was able to be with friends. I love watching my boy be able to do the exact same thing.

I realize that although I want to keep him safe and home with me forever, I can’t tether my boy's wings. He has to use this time of his life to explore, grow, branch out. He has to have more independence so that he can become who he is meant to be. I love having a front row seat to watch my babies grow up. It’s the best gift ever. There are no words to describe how I felt as I hugged my boy SO tightly to my heart when I picked him from his 3-day-away-from-Mama trip. I was worried he would be exhausted and rage-y. I was nervous he’d have trouble fitting back into normal, boring family life. I was so proud of him for going on this trip that I could feel the pride bubbling from every cell of my body. My boy. He’s come so far. Who knew we’d ever get to this point? There are still challenges we face every day, but look at how far he’s come. He’s got this life thing under control. As a parent, there is nothing better than to walk with your child as they continue to grow into the beautiful person you always knew they were.

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