Thursday, June 12, 2008

Replacement Babies?

Recently, on the same day, three people asked me the same question: Is it the same raising Sun and Raine as it was raising your first two? They ask this because I had two children, a boy and then a girl, when I was in my 20s. Now, 50, I have two children, a boy and a girl. So, it's a natural question to ask.

People who know me also know that last year (2007), our son--my oldest child--was shot and killed. When it happened, one of my best friends said to me, "Maybe God gave you these little two because He knew--."

At the time, I thought, "How cruel." How cruel to take away a beloved son (and a beloved daughter who is struggling with mental illness) and also give me two more--at my age! I did not think I could do it--I did not think I could go on and take care of Sun and Raine. I did not WANT to be responsible for two more lives. I did not want to even go on with my own.

Now, I realize that I could not have gone on very well, if at all, if it weren't for Sun and Raine. They are the reason I get up in the morning. Everyday I think of my son, and the thought stabs me in the heart every time. Sometimes, I think about him as soon as I wake up, but most of the time, it hits me in the middle of the day. Until it does, I'm busy changing diapers, fixing meals, reading books, playing with puzzles, going to this Appointment or that, taking them to the park, etc. etc. I have to be "okay" for these two children. I don't have the "luxury" of not going on. And I am ever grateful to God for Sun and Raine.

To answer the question: No, it is not the same. It is not the same, first of all, because I am not the same. I am not the ambitious, career-driven 20-something I was. Before, when I stayed home with my babies, I was always itching to get back into the rat race. I was a professional, after all, a college professor, and I loved my work. I did not think about being a stay-at-home Mom, not only because I was ambitious, but also because we needed my income. Really needed--not just wanted--a second income. Now, I am a stay-at-home Mom Again, and we're living on much less. I still work--still have to. But it's part time and I work from home. I do not want to get back into my previous career nor pursue the second-career I had started (law). And while I am still ambitious (meaning, I still want to be a writer; I can't tamp down that instinct), I devote much more of my time to them than I do to writing. That may spell doom for any profitable writing career, but that's just the way it is now.

I am different because I have lost a child. I am different because I have a child struggling. I am different because I am in a different marriage. I am different because I have been through divorce and have moved several times and have lived in three different states. I am different because I have published several novels and have written and directed several plays. I am different because I don't have to prove myself (as much) now. I am heavier, grayer, older, more settled, and I have my priorities straight.

And, of course, Sun and Raine are different people from my two. And the world is different. When my son was born, there was no world wide web, for instance, and cell phones were nowhere near as ubiquitous as they are now. We were not at war. We did not have Bush. We did not have Obama. We had Newt and Clinton and people of that ilk. (I was, for the record, never a Bill Clinton fan, nor did I ever buy that he was the first Black president.) I had never worked on a campaign before--now I have.

So--no. It's not the same. I will never be the same. It's all new. But thankfully, I can bring some of my creativity, experience, triumphs, sorrows, and wisdom to being a parent the second-time around. This time, I know I have an angel on my side.

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