When I was sixteen years old, a high school senior, I became pregnant. I did not love the boy and he did not love me. I floated through the nine months with free hall passes to the bathroom, two breakfasts a morning, reading all the books I could on pregnancy, and working after school at a camera shop in town. Pregnancy didn’t really hit me, not until February 4th. It was the first time I felt my little baby kick me. I had been soaking in the bathtub when I felt a little kick in my left abdomen.
Jem was born on June, 29th. 1998. He wasn’t named until July, 3rd. when I was being released from the hospital. I look back now and realize that I wasn’t sure what to do with this little bundle of coo’s and crying. I was seventeen, still a baby myself. But somehow I got through the diaper changes, middle of the night feedings, and hundreds of miles walking around the living room trying to soothe him.
It’s been eleven long and eye opening years. Today Shawn and I took Jem to his first ever overnight camp. His therapy group paid the grant to allow him to go to a twelve day camp, mainly suited for other troubled children, (i.e.: ADD, ADHD, etc.) The whole ride to downtown was hard. I realize that I haven’t always been the best mother that Jem has deserved. I was young and didn’t have that “natural” instinct that some women seem to have. The instinct I had when Scout was born. In some ways I feel like I’ve short changed him. Opportunities have passed for him.
Jem is growing up and every day I lose just a little more of him. There have been times when I’ve shouted when I should have taken the time to ask more questions. There have been times I rushed him in the hopes of saving time, only to wish that I had more time to spare. There have been things that I’ve said that I could have said gentler. It doesn’t matter how many diapers I’ve changed. It doesn’t matter how many miles I walked him in his stroller to get him to school or the library. It doesn’t matter that I stayed up all night to make little shamrock pins for his first grade class’ St. Patrick’s Day party. It doesn’t matter that I baked two dozen cupcakes the night before an impromptu party that he wanted to contribute to. It doesn’t matter that I’ve fought tooth and nail to get him the education he needs and deserves.
I look at myself and I realize that I’ve been too hard on him. I’ve made him grow up before he should. Right now he questions why he has to wear a helmet when he rides his bike, even though his friends don’t. He questions why he can’t have sodas and candy. He questions why he has to take medications every day. He questions why his sister can do something and he can’t. He questions why the other kids make fun of him sometimes.
I pray that when he gets older he will look back and see that I wasn’t a mean or uncaring mother, that I was just trying to protect him. I hope that he will appreciate that even though I was young, that I made the hard decision…the right decision. I hope he will appreciate me making him read 40 minutes a day, even though he doesn’t want to, so that he can become a better learner. I hope he will remember camp being a fun experience and not just two weeks for mom to get some time to regroup. I hope he will know that I love him, even though I rarely say it. I hope that he will be forgiving.
There are so many things I could have differently. I could have learned to love him sooner. I could have figured out that the baby bath is supposed to stay in a bathtub or sink, not on the kitchen floor where it is sure to overflow. I could have learned to save money so that I didn’t have to borrow $20 for baby food. I could have started teaching him to tie his shoes earlier. I could have taught him to be a little more agressive and a little less passive. I could have talked less and listened more. I could have been less selfish and a more selfless.
Things will be different when Jem comes home from camp. As many heartaches and headaches he’s caused…And as excited and relieved as I am to have some time to myself…I am excited to hear about his new friends. I am excited to hear all about him horseback riding and swimming. I am excited that we have a chance to change things and start over. I miss him already.