My youngest daughter recently graduated from high school and celebrated her 18th birthday. While I know this means she will soon enter college, spread her strong wings and fly into her own future, I am neither sad nor melancholy about childhood’s end in our family.

I am excited for her and the potential for good which her future holds! Like her older sister who launched a few years ago, she, too, is a remarkable young lady and she has incredible gifts to share with the world.

In addition to the excitement, there is relief. I have set aside a concern I’ve carried since my wife was first diagnosed: what if something happens to me before our girls are old enough and stable enough to fend for themselves?

Among my first worries when my wife was diagnosed was what would happen if I died or became disabled before our girls reached adulthood. Would my wife be able to care for them?

Now that both daughters have reached the age of majority, I can look back and know my worry was unfounded. My wife’s disease process has been slow enough, that even if something had happened to me, she would have been able to care for them.

In addition to the relief, here at childhood’s end I find myself considering the impact MS might have had on who our girls have become. I know they are different people than they would have been. I believe they are kinder and stronger.

My wife and I have never framed her MS as something she has. “We” have MS.

(If you are an MS patient, you may be thinking, “Yeah, right. You don’t know what you’re talking about. She has MS and you’re just a good support.” And you’re correct, she experiences the effects of the disease. She and I together experience the impact the disease. We chose to make it ours as a way of saying to each other: we’re in this together.)

I believe our decision to consider MS “ours” influenced our daughters in a positive way. I believe both are more compassionate than they may otherwise have been.

Seeing my wife reserve energy before a big event like a trip to the mall, laughing with her as she fumbles memories, knowing the first day of a vacation is down time while she recovers following a flight, and knowing she wants to do things she cannot because her legs refuse to cooperate has taught our girls that when they look at a person who seems to have it together they are not seeing the struggles the person may be overcoming each day to keep it together. Our girls know people are fragile and that mutual support is the only way to make it through this world.

I believe they are more independently minded than they might have been. They will think for themselves. They will not be quitters. They have seen an independently minded woman refuse to give up.

They have seen a woman determined to make good happen when it would have been easier to stop. They have watched a remarkable woman maintain a positive attitude in the face of daily struggles.

My daughters know the effort required for their mom to be present and help organize events at school. They’ve heard her speak in science classes about the impact of MS on the neurological system and the consequences that impact has on what an MS patient can do. My wife has been a powerful role model for our girls and their friends.

I’ll stop there. We’re at childhood’s end. My wife and I are looking forward to enjoying the just the two of us again!

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3 Comments on Childhood’s End

  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I, too, have grown children now and feel much the same way as you. I feared that the children would not reach adult hood, marry, or find a career before my husband who has secondary progressive MS was able to see their progress. We have been fortunate that all our children are married and have finished school and we even have our first grandchild. He has been able to be there for it all and for that we are truly blessed. Best wished to you and your family and you start a new stage of family growth. Donna

  2. kathleen Mccann says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. We have six kids four are to adulthood.
    It made me think about the time wasted worrying about things we have no control over. We plan for a future and even though he is progressing much quicker than in the past, we too pray that all our children will reach adulthood and learn the lessons you so eloquently spoke about in your comment.

  3. Linda says:

    Thank you, Rick. I, too, have had this fear. My daughter turned 18 and I put everything in order so that if something were to happen to me she’d have the resources to go to college. I feel more at peace now that my youngest has reached the magic number of 18. My husband would not have been able to care for her these past 6 years.

    I loved the part “They have seen a woman determined to make good happen when it would have been easier to stop. They have watched a remarkable woman maintain a positive attitude in the face of daily struggles.”

    Many blessings as your family starts this new chapter in life.
    //Linda

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