My kids can pretty much forget about inheriting any material wealth. Ryan and I both have MFAs in creative writing. In fact, they’ll be lucky if they don’t inherit any student loan debt. It’ll be an exciting race to the grave to pay those off. My talented friend Anthony has a funny and honest blog called My Gay Mom. He posted a couple of days ago about he and his wife’s decision not to have children because he doesn’t want to pass his bipolar II disorder onto them. This hit pretty close to home. Our first kid, Ben, had many developmental delays. At 20 months old, he could recognize and say every letter in the alphabet, but he couldn’t say “Mom.” He had obsessive tendencies, like lining up Tupperware containers for several hours at a time. He also had sensory processing issues. He had to sleep with paper towels pressed against his cheeks, and would crumble them into tiny balls every night. He couldn’t stand amusement parks or crowds. He didn’t truly begin talking until after he was 3 years old. A lot of that has fallen away, but he still gets some speech help, and it is clear that like Ryan and me, he has obsessive compulsive disorder. It is very difficult to watch your child suffer what you have suffered. You give him tools to try and help him manage it. You read books. You seek the help of professionals. But nothing takes it away.
We were certain things would be less difficult with our second child. The day he was born, it was clear we were naive. In fact, the very next day, Benjamin came down with the stomach flu. Elliott had severe jaundice and needed to be hospitalized. Then he had severe digestive problems, severe ear infections, severe sensory processing problems. A severe speech delay. He was ultimately diagnosed with autism. There was a period of three years that were almost unbearable.
Ryan and I have a genetic predisposition to have children who struggle with the things that many kids and parents never have to worry about. I’m not complaining. What I am saying is that sometimes it is difficult to know that we are the ones who gave these struggles to these people whom we love more than any other people in the world. And it is difficult to help them navigate through situations that we still have trouble navigating through. Of course, we have gotten better at understanding and managing our disorders as we’ve grown older, but put me in a crowd of people on a busy day at Disneyland, and watch me disintegrate. Still.
And now we’ve given a combination of our strange brains to our children. That is their inheritance.
Having children isn’t really a practical decision. One day, my uterus demanded babies, and we simply did as it commanded. We painted a room, and put a crib and lots of other baby-sized things in it, and I felt a tiny human grow and press against the inside of my body. It’s a terrifying and incredible process. We read some books and made some plans, and almost none of that prepared us for the actual experience. Now we have these extraordinary boys, and, like every parent, we watch as the combination of our strengths and flaws takes shape in them. I hope that we have given them more good than bad. I hope that we can teach them to, even on the very worst days, look up from whatever they struggle with and see that there is so much more.