From the moment we knew our son was a boy, we had visions of football dancing in our heads. My husband and I are big Notre Dame fans, and the thought of watching our son grow up playing football was so exciting for us. We did his entire room in Notre Dame, and I wore a special shirt in our maternity photos that said “Future Notre Dame Quarterback” on it. Like, we were all in on this. When he consistently was off the charts in size, the general comment was “Oh there’s a football player!” or “He’ll be a great athlete!” It was all wrapped up in a pretty little package, as far as I was concerned.
Fast forward, and my 4’3”, 80 pounds, size 4 W shoe-wearing six-year-old is a perfectly built specimen for football. But, he could absolutely care less about it. He’s requested to try soccer this spring, so we will see if that sticks, but otherwise, he has no big interest in sports. In fact, his size coupled with his young age has made him a bit clumsy at times. Football will likely never be his thing. But math? Reading? Learning about space? That’s his jam.
A few weeks ago, Bear asked me what germs look like, and after searching Google he ended up requesting a book about it. He is interested in other languages, multiplication, and has an incessant need to see how things work…which tends to get him into trouble. His inquisitive nature and perfectionism also come with my sensitivity and, unfortunately, my anxiety. The other night as we were preparing for bed he said to me “Mama, if you and Daddy ever leave for a while, will there be an adult with us?” I was taken aback. I have been very careful to anticipate fears that could come before they enter his mind. He has never, ever been left by himself, and I could count on one hand the number of people I would even let watch him. I told him I would absolutely never leave him alone, but he continued to need reassurance. “Are you sure? I won’t ever be alone and have to take care of Brother, will I?” It broke me to hear him utter the same words I used to as a child. As a child, I struggled with thinking I would be left all the time. I would follow adults around as inconspicuously as possible, and depending on where I was would have panic attacks over the fears that jumbled in my brain on a continuous loop. I never imagined I would have a little boy who calls me when I escape for a girls night out, wanting a promise that I will in fact return home.
I have learned, and am continuing to accept, the challenges that come with raising a miniature version of myself. My anxiety really stemmed from trauma, and I am so protective of my children and the way they are being raised that I didn’t see this coming at all. I am sure of one thing though: I am better for being his mama. Bear teaches me every single day what is truly important. Intentionally working through his anxiety has helped me with mine. Seeing him continually grow and face challenges head-on when I know exactly how it feels to want to recoil is inspiring. He is extremely brave and I am proud of him every single day.
We never imagined we would have a child like Bear, but he is exactly what we need. We have been given the gift of an extremely inquisitive and bright child, who is already learning that fear is a liar, and he can in fact face anything and overcome, which is something I am still trying to grasp for myself.
Maybe he will be an engineer like his daddy, or maybe he will be an ENT doctor, (like he has told us for two solid years now he wants to be), or maybe neither of those things. Regardless, we are confident that he will find his way in the world and is who he is for a very specific purpose. No, he doesn’t mirror the child we “dreamed of” when we imagined having a son. He’s much more than I could have ever hoped for. Thank God that in life we don’t tend to get what we think we want: instead we get exactly what we need.