When Kate was born, something in my heart changed.
Sure, for the first few weeks it was a bit of grief — but then, slowly, it grew into something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I blamed it on postpartum hormones – the swing in my equilibrium – but even now, almost a year later, there is still something a bit… different.
I haven’t been able to put my finger on it totally. Until today.
Today I read an article from the New York Times: Notes from a Dragon Mom by Emily Rapp. Wow. What a beautiful, honest, heartbreaking story of a mom and her terminally ill son.
And though my situation is quite different than hers, I can relate to her sentiment. The idea that as parents – though we plan and worry and look forward to the next milestone – it’s really about loving our children today.
Emily writes about her son born with Tay-Sachs disease, a condition which gives him only a few years to live:
Today Ronan is alive and his breath smells like sweet rice. I can see my reflection in his greenish-gold eyes. I am a reflection of him and not the other way around, and this is, I believe, as it should be. This is a love story, and like all great love stories, it is a story of loss. Parenting, I’ve come to understand, is about loving my child today. Now. In fact, for any parent, anywhere, that’s all there is.
What has changed in my heart has nothing to do with Kate’s capabilities or her future — she will grow to do amazing things. But what I learned when she was born is that unexpected things happen. They are sometimes heartbreaking. They are often blessings. But they are always an opportunity to grow and to be more fully who we’re supposed to be.
A year later, I care more. But I also care less. I care less about some things that at one time seemed so important — the shallow, fading things that pass with the seasons.
And on the flip side, I care more about today. About the people I love. About soaking up the precious moments, just as Emily writes about her son:
The day-to-day is often peaceful, even blissful. This was my day with my son: cuddling, feedings, naps. He can watch television if he wants to; he can have pudding and cheesecake for every meal. We are a very permissive household. We do our best for our kid, feed him fresh food, brush his teeth, make sure he’s clean and warm and well rested and … healthy? Well, no. The only task here is to love, and we tell him we love him, not caring that he doesn’t understand the words. We encourage him to do what he can, though unlike us he is without ego or ambition.
Emily certainly has a more pressing reminder to be focused on the present — but all of us, in a way, can benefit from the lesson of appreciating where we are, right now. Because as the story shares, when it comes down to it, all we have is today.