Our boys, ages 3.5 and 1, have never, not once, met even the bottom percentile of the growth chart when it comes to height. Throughout my pregnancy with Lionel, and then with Quincy, doctors and genetic counselors tried to prepare my husband and I for the many possible outcomes my sons may face; the majority of them terrified me.
While our boys do not have concerns that align with the scariest of conditions, they are remarkably behind where the doctors feel that they should be. In Lionel's case, the age of his bones is one year behind what's normal for his age. And in Quincy's case, he's shorter as a one-year-old than even his big brother was at age 1.
We've had extensive discussions with our sons' specialists about medical intervention to augment their growth. And as these tests and these discussions continue, we’ve come up with little to no answers regarding where this height challenge came from, other than the determination that it's a familial condition that's been passed from Daddy to our boys. Yet, the time is quickly approaching to make determinations about whether or not to intervene medically, and, if we elect to do so, whether or not treatment would actually work to help our boys to grow. Since both of our boys are otherwise very healthy children that just happen to be short, we're hesitant to undertake such drastic medical intervention without some semblance of confidence that growth hormone will be effective.
My sons, while immeasurably bright, gracious, kind, and as silly as they come, are short.
And as their Mama, I am left to grapple with not only the question of whether growth hormone treatment will be effective at all, but also the logistics of daily growth hormone injections for TWO wiggly toddlers, the financial burden of growth hormone therapy for not one but TWO boys, the pleas of “Why do I have to have shots?”, and the recognition that our boys are different from their friends, their cousins, their peers.
And while I've long insisted that this story is not my story to tell – this story that's marked by quizzical doctors and dots on a chart and many a tear-soaked pillowcase and “just-let-me-hold-you-while-you-sleep” snuggles – I'm coming to realize that this, for now, at least, is my story, too. It's the story of me, the Mama of these two bubbly, wonderfully exquisite boys, coming to grips with what God has handed us in this life.
I certainly cannot speak for them – I cannot tell their story – but I can tell mine.
My story is fear, and my fears speak loud enough.
I fear that if our boys are short, and not just short, but quite short, they may have to bear the taunts and the teases of bullies.
They may not be picked for the team at recess.
They may be made to feel inadequate, either consciously or subconsciously, by their peers, even well-intentioned ones.
They may not be asked to dance at prom, or they may be needlessly fearful to do the asking themselves.
They may arrive home from school in tears, wondering why the children tease them so mercilessly, why they are different from everyone else, why they are so short.
And it's the hurt faces of my two boys that prevent rest from taking hold of my body, that pound my heart violently, that give way to tears more often than not.
No mother wants her child, her children, to bear the brunt of what cannot be helped.
Yet what I'm beginning to grasp as I hold each of these boys, short armies and leggies and all, close to my barrump-ing heart each night, is that while I may not be able to shelter my boys from what I'm so afraid of – ridicule, inadequacy, unkindness – the question I keep returning to is this: What will they remember more – the snickers and the taunts, or their mother's love for them?
What will have a greater effect on their well-being, their self-esteem – the momentary sting of unkind words, or the safety net of our home, where they are loved, filled up, and treasured just as they are?
What will reverberate through the years to come, through their interactions with others – the ridicule of their peers, or the praise of their family?
I'm sure that all mothers begin each day with a simple meditation – Please, let me be an example to my children of the goodness of humanity today – but in light of our boys' challenges, my prayer has changed slightly.
Please, let me be an example to my children of the goodness of humanity and the gift of forgiveness, today and always.
How do I approach such a task, one that's so often synonymous with falling short and seeking grace?
I ask questions.
“What does it mean to be kind, Lionel?”
“Who do you want to thank God for today, Lionel?”
I give reminders.
“Quincy, say you're sorry for hitting.”
“That's not nice to say, bud; you don't want to hurt someone's heart.”
And I wash their grubby hands, their marker-stained clothing, their sweet chubby cheeks in love. Every single day.
“Do you know how much I love you?”
“THIIIIIIIIIIIS MUCH,” Lionel sings back to me, his arms as wide as his little body allows.
Exactly, my sweet boy. And each day, I strive to show love, and I pray that my mama love is more than enough to not simply endure, but to thrive.