Through the eyes of a child

When you’re raising kids, you might have goals for how they’ll turn out, like I did. But it’s only when they’re adults that you can really see the results of your efforts, which are never guaranteed.

I’ve spent several days in a row helping my youngest (who turns 18 on Sunday) with proofreading his college essays and scholarship applications. It’s been an eye-opening experience, to say the least.

Not surprisingly, he thinks very highly of my husband and refers to him as one of his strongest role models. My husband and my youngest son share a lot of personality traits and even look quite a bit alike.

I say that it’s not surprising that my son thinks of my husband as a role model because that’s just the kind of guy my husband is. He may not be super social or outgoing but he’s a rock-solid, honest, genuinely good man.

When I was younger, I admit that I felt overshadowed by how much people admired and respected my husband. In comparison, I felt just ordinary, like kind of a loser. Even my own mom once said he was too good for me. The truth is that she was probably right. I’ve worked hard on becoming a better person and I don’t feel that way very much anymore.

But it was interesting and surprising that my youngest son sees admirable traits in me as well. He said that I’ve influenced him to be a kinder person and that I’ve shown him that in pursuing some of my own big dreams, I’ve encouraged him to pursue his own.

Still, since the prompt for the essay is “describe your challenges and how they have shaped you,” he also mentions our challenges and how they have affected him, both my husband’s cancer and my brain disease. He mentions that we’re likely to have shorter lifespans as a result of our illnesses and how that drives him to make the most of his opportunities while he can.

And there’s just something about seeing myself through his eyes that makes me feel both incredibly proud and profoundly depressed. You want your kids to learn good values and lessons from you (or at least I did) but it’s another thing entirely to realize that part of what imparted those values and lessons were the tragic circumstances of your own life.

I don’t think anybody wants to be a tragic figure, no matter how much their tragedy inspires resilience and strength in others. But we don’t always get to choose what we want our impact on the world to be. I’m trying not to count myself out already, even though I’m spending more of my days almost too tired to function and my leg pain is starting to interfere with my mobility. My mobility is still overall good, but for the first time I feel it turning a corner where I’m not certain my mobility will remain good anymore.

I still want to have hope in my future and I’ll fight to the bitter end. But it occurs to me that I may never get to do all the things that I wanted to do. But my goal in parenting was to raise thoughtful kids who would make the world a better place and I think I’ve achieved that. Maybe that’s enough of an accomplishment with my life.

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