I think you always live life in uncharted territory with your first child. After all, you’ve never been in that particular place before, right? With second, third, fourth, tenth child, you have a better idea of what you’re getting into, no matter how different the personalities may be. Well, Ryley is my first, and then you add in his prematurity, and I spend most of my time feeling completely lost. I never know what to expect. I’m always thinking “Is this just him, or is this something else that I can blame on his premature arrival?” I can’t tell you how often I find myself looking at him with my head tipped sideways and that “huh?” look on my face. Lost…..totally and completely off the map…or at least I feel like I am.
Ryley has a lot of quirks. He’s emotional from his medication, but on top of that, he is just a sensitive kid. He’s not only sensitive with his own emotions, he’s very sensitive to the emotions of those around him. I love that he’s so empathetic. He just seems to pick up on things and knows how to react appropriately…at least as much as a nine-year old can manage. He’s very huggy, which I also love. He’s pretty confident most of the time, however, if he thinks he can’t do something, the brakes go on and he simply won’t do it. But when he *knows* he can do something, and is good at it (ie math), there is no end to his confidence. Double-edged sword there, though. He knows he does well academically, therefore, in his mind, he’s obviously smarter than everyone else, especially his parents.
Ryley makes sounds, constantly. It’s one of his ticks. That was the first thing I and his teachers picked up on before he was diagnosed last year. He continually whistles, taps pencils (or whatever else is in his hand), makes weird noises, bangs on whatever’s handy, etc. The ironic part looking back is that he was speech-delayed as a toddler. Hah! He talks non-stop now. Sometimes, I can tune it all out, but it can really drive me to distraction. He rarely just walks anywhere. He’s usually running, hopping, skipping sideways, twirling around in circles….anything BUT walking. He has a low frustration level. If he’s working on something and can’t get it, tears flow, he throws whatever it is he’s working on, calls himself stupid, and so on. I try to let him work it out, but sometimes I just need to step in before he reaches full-blown tantrum. There’s no talking to him once he gets to that level.
Ry is not the tidiest person. His room is regularly trashed. Being a (hopefully) typical boy, he would wear the same jeans, shirt, and socks for days in a row if I let him. YUCK! What’s funny though is that he’s very particular about most things, he’s just messy. A messy perfectionist…who knew those existed? But that’s the best way I can describe him.
I always wonder what’s coming next with Ryley. What will today bring? I worry about him a lot. I often stare at him in wonder, knowing he could very possibly NOT be here with us. He is not perfect, and he can drive me completely insane multiple times each day. When he was in the NICU, I heard the song “He’s My Son” and I broke down. The song talks about a sick son, the father wanting to take his place, the mother exhausted from sitting by his bed watching him sleep, and wanting that boy to be able to grow up. I used to listen to that song every day, on my way to and from the NICU. It became my prayer for Ryley….I just wanted him to survive, be able to grow up, and I would have taken his place in a heartbeat. Nowadays I look at him with all his quirks, all his strengths, all his amazing life and I just think “wow, he is my son”. He is that same tiny boy I longed to hold, that same toddler I prayed would talk, that same little boy I couldn’t wait to see swing a bat. Now he’s a big boy who stumps me, that leaves me wondering where I’m going and what I’m doing as far as my mothering, and that makes me truly believe in miracles and the power of prayer. And as Mark Schultz has said, “He’s not just anyone, he’s my son”.