The final story in the trilogy of how I have accidentally learned some life lessons from my children involves my youngest son – Three-of-Three. He was seven or eight at the time. In this story, the parent (me) and the kids were all snuggled up in bed having a ‘tell-me-stories-about-when-I-was-a-baby’ session. I was obliging with funny stories about babies eating worms and being afraid of garden hoses and leaves and cacti and somehow it came up that when I was pregnant with Three-of-Three, due to a pregnancy complication (placenta praevia), I had to stay in bed for two full months. The conversation that ensued went something like this –
Three-of-Three: “But did you stay in bed all the time?”
Me: “I did.”
Three-of-Three: “Every single day for two whole months?”
Me: “Every single minute of every single day.”
Three-of-Three: “But why did you do that?”
Me: “Because if I didn’t you wouldn’t have been able to grow in my tummy.”
Three-of-Three: “Would I have died?”
Three-of-Three sat up in bed, looked at me very seriously and didn’t say anything for a few seconds, he was obviously thinking about this new information. Finally, once he’d digested it, with a very solemn expression on his small face he said – “Thanks, Mom.”
I was completely taken aback. I had always seen that time when I was pregnant with him as being about me. My experience. My pregnancy. My fear. My worry. My potential loss. I saw my two months of being consigned to bed as something I did for myself.
He saw it differently. He saw himself as a person in his own right, not an extension of me, or even a ‘product’ of me but a whole, distinct other person.
And for the first time, I really realised that that was true. Not that I hadn’t given lip-service to that idea before – I had. There was just something about his heart-felt expression of thanks that showed me not only that was he grateful but also that he really wasn’t me.
Which got me to thinking that our children, as well as being born of and influenced (for better or worse) by us are also complete human beings in their own right (also for better or worse).
Which means so are we. We are products of certain people and certain times and certain environments but that’s not all we are – we are also uniquely ourselves.
Just like Three-of-Three.