The End

While I’ve talked about the frequent weight checks for Big Man, I haven’t really talked about all  he’s been going through the last few years, and part of the reason for all those weight checks.

It wasn’t something entirely unexpected, but it was frustrating nonetheless.  Back in late-seventh, and eighth grade, nearly all his friends started their growth spurts. While Big Man didn’t stop growing, he didn’t spurt. Suddenly, most of his friends were significantly taller, while he stayed much the same height. My brother grew late. Spouse grew late. So did my BIL apparently, so we weren’t too worried. But then he fell far off his own growth curve….like REALLY far off his own growth curve. It was enough his pediatrician called in the troops – ordered blood work, and started all the referrals to any specialist applicable. We’ve spent the last 2+ years getting follow-up testing, blood work, bone age scans, visiting endocrinology a few times.

What it came down to is the fact he is just constitutionally delayed – by a bit over 2 years. That means his body is two years behind his chronological age. That’s kind of a big deal for a fourteen/fifteen/sixteen year old. He took it in stride initially, but then when even the “small” kids in his friend group grew taller than he, the struggle began. He never said much about it, but I knew it was hard for him. It was miserable for me to see the difference, to see my little big boy walking around, significantly shorter than most of his peers. I prayed continually for him to grow. Like when  he was in the NICU, we began to celebrate every ounce gained, every part of an inch grown. We watched for any sign he was entering his spurt. Days, weeks, months passed, and nothing.

He’s nearly seventeen. He’s grown almost three inches since January 1st. I really have to look up to him now. His voice has changed. His face looks different – more adult, more defined. He sleeps constantly. He eats when he isn’t asleep. He’s shot up three lines on the growth curve. His ADHD doctor now says he can’t even guess how tall Big Man will be (just a year ago, he was telling me Big Man would maybe end up at 5’9″ or so).

I can’t express my level of relief – moreso for him than anything. I don’t have to see that look on his face anymore. He’s catching up to his friends. We saw his pediatrician last week and she was surprised, but not really surprised. We’ve reached the end of this particular medical journey. He is fully in his growth spurt. Whew. We do have one more visit with endocrinology in September, just to dot that final i and cross that final t.

I’m once again reminded of his NICU days…..in the beginning, in the middle, and even towards the end, it seemed we would never see the day he would come home. The last few years, it seemed we would never reach the end of this delay, we wondered he would ever grow. This child has always done things in his own time, on his own terms. This shouldn’t have been any surprise to me at all, yet it was. But now this too will be put behind us, and I will look up at my getting-taller-every-day big boy, and be thankful.

Dug Himself a Hole

The theme of “Parenting Teenagers is REALLY Hard” has been done here at the Herd pretty consistently lately. That’s because parenting teenagers is REALLY hard, and, well, this place here helps me process everything. Thanks for hanging in there with us.

I’ve had this layer of sadness hanging over me today, sadness and anxiety.  We had a meeting at the high school yesterday with Big Man, all his teachers, and his guidance counselor. Yes, it’s reached that point. We want to help him. We need to help him. He needed to hear it from more than his parents. It was an hour of  hearing what a good, well-liked student he is, but a student who doesn’t do homework. He’s an intelligent but dumb teenage  boy. Does that make sense?

We were given stacks of missing assignments in every class but one. Deadlines were extended, concessions made. Every teacher wants to help him reach his potential. But  he has a huge hole to dig himself out of. HUGE! (Did you just hear Trump in your head? I did). I looked at that stack this morning, and was overwhelmed for him. He spent three hours doing homework last night, because goodness knows he has to keep up with his current work, tests, and quizzes, as well as hammer down the long list of missing assignments.

We had to look at everything, all the work needing to be completed, what the deadlines are, when tests are coming up, and develop a plan of attack. This kid will essentially have no life outside of academia for the next couple of months. Do I feel bad for him? Yes, but at the same time, he put himself here.

I think he’s learned a valuable lesson he will carry with him the rest of his life.  The lesson is this: even when you think it isn’t necessary, you still have to do the work. That applies to school, to work, to life in general. Do. The. Work. You can’t slide by on being a good test-taker, the fact you easily retain information you hear in the classroom, nor the fact you’re charming and people like you. Do the work.

He heard a lot of good things yesterday too. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. He knows we and his teachers aren’t out to get him, that we’re all here to support him and help him be successful. It’s been a really rough couple of months, but again, I’m kind of glad we’ve gone through this now, when he’s home under our roof and radar, when we can take action on his behalf, reach out to his teachers and support staff, rather than years from now when he’s in college and we have no hope of knowing until it’s entirely too late he needs help.

That sadness – I think it comes from being overwhelmed, from having to teach your precious sixteen year old a very tough lesson, from knowing he’s capable of entirely more than he’s been showing. Add to that, he has an appointment with a specialist this afternoon for yet another medical issue, and me just being tired, makes for an emotional momma. We’ll get there. We’ll get through. Life lessons are tough on everyone.

Is this the next shoe?

I spent the first five or six years of Big Man’s life waiting for the next shoe to drop. When you have a micro-preemie, there are lots of shoes involved. Because I felt like we’d escaped his early birth and subsequent NICU stay relatively unscathed (physically and developmentally), I was certain there would be plenty of shoes falling from the sky. We couldn’t be that lucky, right?

He was diagnosed with high muscle tone on his left side when he’d been home just a few months. High muscle tone can be an indicator of cerebral palsy, often a result of very premature birth. We used massage and physical therapy, and within a few months, the high tone was gone. He had a speech delay at 15 months. We used sign language, sang and read to him constantly, incorporated some speech therapy, and by 2.5 years, we were begging him to stop talking. At four, he was diagnosed with reactive airway disease, which became full-blown asthma at 5 years old.This wasn’t unexpected – there was damage to his lung tissue from the oxygen he needed to survive. It was still a big speed bump for us. He would go from zero-to-pneumonia within a matter of hours every time he got a cold, an allergy flare, or the flu.  But then daily maintenance meds, and extreme vigilance became the norm. We tossed aside that shoe. At eight, he was diagnosed ADHD, and we learned he had something of a visual processing disorder. He got meds, and he got glasses. He became much more successful in the classroom, much more confident in himself. He was at 80% higher risk of ADHD just by fact of his prematurity. Genetics also played into that hand.

He’s a small guy. When he fell off his own growth curve a couple of years ago, we started with x-rays, bloodwork, a trip to the endocrinologist, protein shakes, diet changes, etc. Turns out he’s just dealing with delayed puberty. Again, fabulous genetics, from both parents. But it was a process. And I couldn’t help but wonder if this wasn’t another shoe. You know that growth chart doctors parade in front of parents at every visit? Yeah, that. Well, he wasn’t even on that chart for height or weight until he was well past three years old, and even then, he hovered below 3%. He still hangs out down on the lower end. His BMI isn’t close to being on the chart. That teeny, tiny, 2 -pound, 15 inches long baby is still a long, skinny young man. Another shoe….a handle-able shoe, but it still feels like a shoe.

With some consistently funky bloodwork, we were sent to a specialist at Children’s who put him in a study. Part of that study was a body scan, including bone density. I thought nothing of it. The initial purpose of the scan was to compare muscle mass, bone mass, and fat mass in his body to determine if he were at healthy levels. Do you see another shoe? I didn’t, until the results from the study came back. He has severely impaired bone density. I didn’t know what to do with that. I was calm about it for a couple of days, then kind of started to process what that might mean. Impaired bone density = easily broken, right? He’s an active kid. And he’s a normal kid. Rough-housing, falls, trips when he’s racing – they’re all normal parts of his day. So now we have supplements, and a trip back to endocrinology.

I thought  I was doing okay with this. It’s just another bump in the road, right? But then my preemie-mom-mind went there….Could this be another shoe? He’s a 16 year old, former 26 weeker. He’s kind of on the front end of micro-preemies being considered viable, and fought for. The medical community is still learning the long-term outcomes of saving these littles. Trust me, in NO WAY am I saying not to save them, give them a fighting chance. I’m just saying, when your baby is born at 24, 25, 26 weeks, they can’t tell you how that’s going to look when he’s 15 years old, 20  years old, 50 years old. Of course, not any one of us, preemie or no, knows what our lives are going to be like long term. So there’s that. But I couldn’t help but ask, could this new thing, this impaired bone density, be a result of  his premature birth? Is this some outcome they didn’t know could happen?

I wouldn’t change a thing done to save him way back then. Oxygen, steroids, lipids, caffeine, blood transfusions, vitamins, and antibiotics were a way of life for 93 days. Those are the things that saved him. But did one of those things do this? We’ll never know. And in all honesty, it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t undo it. I have my baby. He came home, and he’s a thriving, normal teenager.

I do see that shoe hovering over my head. I keep looking up at it, waiting for it to fall. I don’t know if this new wrinkle is a shoe, but when you have a micro-preemie, pretty much everything the rest of your son’s life will look rather shoe-like.

On the verge

I drove my oldest, and his buddy to golf camp this morning. They are both entering seventh grade in 11 days. Mine will be 13 in just over a month. While we slugged our way through the morning traffic, I just listened to them, and was struck by the huge corner we are about to turn.

They still have their high-pitched boy voices. How long will that last? I wonder what he will sound like in a few years’ time. I treasure the sound of his voice now. I miss his toddler and little boy voice.  They were giggling as they talked about classmates, things that happened during the last school year, what’s coming for them this year, video games, sisters. How will those conversations change in the coming months?

Ry has his first real zit. Gross, yes, but definitely a step in becoming a teenager. He is disgusted by it, and very self-conscious. He keeps asking how long he will have it. Poor kid. I had to break the news that this is the first of many.

He smells like stinky man-boy when he gets home from golf and soccer practice. Ugh. I have to drive with all the windows down to get the stench out. I’m not fond of big-boy-becoming-teenager smell. We’ve enforced daily showers. What do boys have against being clean? He thought just getting his hair and body wet would do the trick. I sent him back to the shower, twice, to get it right….washed, with shampoo and soap. I have a feeling this may be an ongoing battle – until girls enter the picture.

He was riding in the front passenger seat the other day. I noticed real hair on his lower legs. What the what? When did that happen? He looked at me like I had been in outer space when I asked him about it. But there was hair on my baby’s legs!!!! Real man leg hair!!

He has been a sleep-in maniac all summer long. More than once, I’ve gone in his room at 10:30am and woke him up. Seriously? I don’t remember ever sleeping like that, although I’m sure I did.  He’s really hoping it’s a sign of an oncoming growth spurt. He’s very anxious to be taller than I.  I’m half happy he’s no longer up at 6am all Summer long, playing video games as long as he can before I wander downstairs and shut it all down, setting the timer for him to get his reading done, making him eat breakfast and get out of his pajamas. But I also have stuff to get done most days, and waking a sleeping bear is not my idea of fun, particularly if I haven’t had enough coffee.

We’re on the verge. I feel it. I see signs of the changes coming. I wonder what the next six years are going to bring, what kind of man my biggest baby is going to become? How tall will he be? What will he sound like? Will he be a tough teenager? Will he still hug his mom? How will I discipline a child I have to physically look up to? For now, I’m going to enjoy that boyish voice  that still giggles with his friends. While I’m doing that, I’m also going to mentally and emotionally prepare for what’s just around the corner.