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!