I wrote this same type of letter to your brother a year ago. It was difficult to write, typing through the tears. You are a completely different person, so this letter will not mirror that one except for this; I’m going to start with the exact same sentence:
I don’t know what to say to you. I know what I feel, but I’m not sure words do the depth of these feelings justice.
The road to where you stand today was not an easy one.
You know that you were an InVitro baby and that when I was 10 weeks pregnant with you I woke up in a pool of blood. For weeks it looked like I would lose you. But we fought, you and I. It was a sign of things to come.
When you were little you had trouble keeping anything down. There were times when I questioned your ability to hear. You loved to rock. You were the only one-year-old I know of who had a baby swing in every room and would pump it like you were on a swing set, rocking the legs right off the ground.
As a toddler you fought for coordination. You would orient yourself by coming to me and standing with your heels on my toes. You walked into walls and fell down stairs. Regularly. More often than not.
At some point I realized that the pediatrician was not giving credence to my concerns. Against his advice, I took you to an ENT. I thought I was there about frequent ear infections but one look and he knew you had issues with swallowing and with balance. You needed your tonsils and adenoids out, sinuses drained and tubes in your ears (the first of about 5 sets).
When they rolled you into surgery, my heart broke. We spent that night, you and I, in your hospital room. Me in the chair, you in my arms.
And then you were like an infant again. What little sense of balance you had was skewed, you finally were able to gain weight, you literally had to learn to negotiate your body through space all over again. Or really for the first time.
Through determination and perseverance you learned to swim, to ski, to sometimes walk through doorways instead of into walls.
Yet still you fought for coordination, orientation, didn’t cross the mid-line, couldn’t read cues, had frequent ear infections, a hyperactive gag reflex, unrelenting eczema on your palms, a tremor.
Chocolate and peanut butter, your favorite. This one’s for you:
Peanut Butter Cup Squares
Where most kids do well because of their education, you excelled despite yours. I believe a school system should address a student’s ability to work at the highest level of their own individual capacity. That actually is the mission statement, apparently they didn’t read it. They repeatedly made it clear that facilitating your ability to function at a personal optimal level is not required by law if they can document that all students meet the bare minimum of district requirements. And they can document anything they want. You were at the top of your class year after year yet to this day your handwriting is the same as it was in kindergarten, you still cannot take legible notes. PT was denied. OT was denied. The OT did put a big sign on your desk telling you to write neatly. I had it removed. That sign would not diminish your tremor, impact fine motor control or visual/spatial issues. Why embarrass a child you refuse to work with? A laptop for note taking? Denied as well. I fought that battle for years and years. I lost. I'm sorry.
Once I realized that their agenda was in conflict with yours, I took you to Boston for an honest evaluation. One of the issues the doctors identified was that you have a disorganized mind; meaning that it takes you that much more effort to do the work of others as you approach tasks in a haphazard, hit or miss fashion.
I found you a private OT for the fine and gross motor, tremor, nystagmus, visual/spatial and mid-line issues. Your third grade teacher worked with you after school on his own time. He saw what I saw, he just wasn’t in a position to publicly say so.
You and I became a team; the concrete and literal son and the sarcastic mom. We worked together developing strategies that would impact organization, interpreting cues, identifying sarcasm, prioritizing tasks, distinguishing what’s salient and keeping you on track in school. You worked hard, adopted the strategies and became . . . you.
Now not only can you do anything you need to, but you kill it. Despite challenges in the way you approach tasks and over a year of suffering from mono, you are in the top 4% in a high school class of 600 students, you're the president of a club, have a great group of friends, work year round as a lifeguard, teach swim lessons, belong to a gym, and participate in volunteer work.
Yes son, through it all, here you are an independent (sometimes to a fault) self-sufficient (ditto), honest, hard-working young man. In our family you have always been the peacemaker and the keeper of confidences.
You are, you always have been, a person of honor. I cannot think of a single thing I would want you to be more than that.
I was recently challenged with putting my feelings about you into 20 words or less. Dissertations would not be accepted. This is what I wrote:
Your intelligence will take you part way.
Your character will take you the rest.
Watching with pride.
Mom, Dad, Brother
Happy Birthday, Son.
I love you like crazy.
Peanut Butter Cup Squares©www.BakingInATornado.com
1 stick butter
1 stick margarine
¾ cup smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour
24 mini Reese’s cups
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 X 13 pan with non-stick spray.
*Melt butter and margarine in the microwave. Wisk in the peanut butter. You may need to microwave 15 seconds more to be sure it’s smooth.
*Mix in the sugar and brown sugar, vanilla and salt. Wisk in the eggs, then mix in the flour.
*Spread evenly into prepared pan. Place the mini candies evenly spaced over the top of the batter, gently push them partially into the batter.
*Bake approximately 35 minutes or until the top springs back to the touch. Cool completely.
*Melt butter and chocolate chips in microwave until smooth, mix in the vanilla.
*Carefully mix in the powdered sugar. You don’t need it to be completely incorporated, just enough so it won’t fly out on you when you beat the mixture.
*Beat in the heavy cream. You can adjust the consistency with more cream if too thick or more powdered sugar if too thin.
*Spread on cooled cake.