You Are Mine

It’s time to talk about my oldest son, Ethan. He will be 19 years old in less than a week. Where does the time go?!

Ethan was a fairly quiet and content baby. He would sit and play without getting into trouble for hours. As a toddler, he loved trains, books, and his blanket buddy, Lamby. He would play with his Thomas the Tank Engine trains, watch train shows, read books, or read books TO his Thomas trains. He was an early talker, and we could tell from a young age that he was very bright.

He has always been a very observant child. He soaks everything in, even when you think he’s not paying attention. As a child, teenager, and now an adult. He is aware of his eccentricities. Even as a young child he knew he was smart, and would test us. One of his favorite things to do would be to ask us a question. After we answered, he would respond with “well, actually……,” He will tell you himself, that he is socially awkward. He met his best friend in kindergarten, and they have been buddies ever since. That, along with his family, is enough for him.

He went to daycare for the first three years of his life, as I was still in the working world. He played with other kids, but was not extremely social. He had one boy in particular that he loved to play with. He preferred not to be in the spotlight. If there was circle time and he was called on to say something or do something at some point, he would disappear into his shell.

In grade school, we realized that he really was advanced, especially in math and science. He had more difficulty with creative writing activities, art and gym. You see, Ethan always saw things in black and white. Either it was right, or not. He was a perfectionist. He worried that his teacher wouldn’t be interested in what he wrote, drew, painted, etc. I could never convince him that it didn’t matter. It was about understanding the concept or lesson, not whether they found it interesting. In gym, he didn’t want attention directed at him, and like me, he was not athletically inclined.

In second grade, Ethan’s teacher expressed concern about his refusal to write in his journal. She suggested that we take him for counseling, to see if there was a reason behind it. My husband had said for some time that we should have him tested. He had some quirky behaviors, and Bill was worried that he was autistic. I always said that if he was, he was high functioning, and I didn’t want him labeled, but now it seemed like it was time to have him checked. He met with a therapist several times, and she felt he was fine, so we moved on, and continued to try to ease his fears of what others thought. He went to another before we moved abroad, and again, they said he was doing fine. No diagnosis.

From third grade on, Ethan had trouble getting homework done. Not because he didn’t understand it, but because he didn’t want to do it. It was a never-ending battle. He needed to be constantly reminded. He did wonderfully on tests, but if he had a homework assignment he didn’t agree with, or feel comfortable with, he wouldn’t do it. It was so hard to deal with, knowing the level of intelligence he possessed.

When we lived in Shanghai, a counselor noticed some of his quirky behaviors, knew of his homework difficulties, and asked to have him tested. The school psychologist conducted the testing, and again, it was determined that he was not autistic. Again, we moved on in life, and soon, back to the U.S. He finished high school, at the top IB school in the nation, and finished with a good GPA, considering all of his earlier difficulties.

In his junior year of high school, he started seeing a therapist again. We were hoping to help him deal with approaching adulthood. When he opened up to me, he was very aware of his issues, and exactly when they started to effect his schooling…way back in third grade. He wanted help too. After a year of counseling, his therapist told him she thought he had ADHD. Specifically ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder.) We had never thought this was possible, as he certainly could concentrate on something when he wanted to. And no one else had suggested this. His therapist told him that it was not an average case, and therefore, harder to identify. Shortly afterwards, he started medication. We would notice an immediate change.

Ethan will always be quirky. It’s how God made him. He would not be who he is without it. He has started his college career and is doing great. He is working toward medical school, or sometimes a career as a history professor, but most days, medical school. He has a job at a car dealership as a porter. He is doing what he needs to do, when he needs to do it….mostly. After all, he’s still my Ethan.

Be Not Afraid

Today, I want to talk about our second son, Brennan, who is now 15. It is hard for me to know how my active Crohn’s disease years, played in on our sons development. They were so young, but also at that age where they were learning the most, and developing at the fastest rate that they ever would. Due to how sick I was, Brennan got more snuggles than anything else, and I often wonder if that is why he’s my most empathetic child.

When Brennan was a toddler he was a happy kid, full of deep belly laughs. He never stopped moving, he was always busy enjoying life. He seemed to think he was unstoppable: Invincible. When he was a little older, and learned that the world wasn’t always rainbows and unicorns,  he started saying a personalized bedtime prayer. He made it up on his own and faithfully said it every night, at least once, but more on less confident days.  My favorite part of the prayer was when he asked God to protect his family from natural disasters or getting thugged. We are a quietly religious family, and never really pushed bedtime prayers,  he did it all on his own. To this day he still says a prayer when he feels it is needed, although I do believe he has revised it a bit.

At the age of five, when Mei Mei came home, he was absolutely ecstatic. He’s always loved babies, so having a baby sister was the ultimate gift for him. At least at the age of five, because let’s  be honest, siblings don’t always get along. When she came home he taught her to crawl then walk. It was a very fast transition, as Chinese babies tend to be a little behind at first, but catch up quickly. He also taught her baby sign language. They played together all the time. They had a very close bond for years. When I see that peek out every now and then, despite the tension of one at the beginning of puberty, and one at the end, my heart melts.

At 15, he still gives plenty of hugs and says I love you everyday. He is the first to question if someone is okay, or ask if you need help. He talks to me about the good, the bad, and the ugly in his life, without prompting. What parent doesn’t cherish that time with their son or daughter?! He is also me, as a teenager, in boy form, new and improved. He reminds me of myself so much it hurts sometimes, but it also makes me proud. He’s a responsible student, and never has to be reminded of school work, is very funny, and never feels the need to come back at people with a nasty retort if they choose to be cruel to him. His confidence at this age far outweighs what mine was.

He has a love of life that I wish I had at his age, but I wish he didn’t worry about his future as much as he does. He has pondered over what he is going to do with his life, and how good his grades are, since 6th grade. I wish he had waited a few more years for those concerns. You don’t get those worry-free childhood years back. I know this is a result of our four years living abroad when he was between the ages of 8 and 12 (these years will be discussed in future posts), as those worldly experiences definitely influenced our children. I also wouldn’t change those years for anything. They helped form who Brennan is today.

Today was Brennan’s day. I am blessed with three children. They are my heart and soul. I cannot say enough, how proud I am of them.