The Middle Child

I realize my strange and subtle humor likely doesn’t translate well to a blog where not every reader might know me. So, in that light, I’ll just add that I was only kidding about letting go of my Olympic dreams (sort of). Instead, I am transferring them to my middle child (again a joke–sort of) who turns 15 tomorrow. Because I rarely discuss Ethan on this blog, I thought I’d compose an entry dedicated just to this boy who was born on George Washington’s birthday, 15 years ago.

Ethan was a challenging baby–fussy much of the time. On more than one occasion, his daycare provider called me at work and told me I had to come get him because she couldn’t handle his fussiness anymore. She once told me that he gave her a headache. I think I had him at the doctor’s office about 4-5 times during his 6th month of life. I would sort of hold him out in front of the doctor and plea for help. The pediatrician told me to persist; that he could tell Ethan was a very intelligent boy and that he would be an enormous source of joy to me someday. Maybe these were just the sort of words the doctor spoke to all struggling parents. But his words have proven true. Ethan is a joy; perhaps I’d go so far as to say that Ethan is joy, pure joy (hey, if BMW can claim that it’s cars are joy, I can certainly claim my son is joy).

Ethan has always been terribly athletic. I was quite surprised when I was sitting in my chair reading and Ethan was just 7 months old. I looked over and he had pulled himself to standing right by my chair. He was walking effortlessly at 9.5 months (which made him very happy and from this point forward, he became my easy going child and one of the daycare provider’s favorites). He was jumping off the back of the couch at 10 months of age. He has always been a bit fearless. At the same time, he seems to have a very good sense of where his body is–even when he is twisting and turning high in the air. I started him in a recreational gymnastics class for toddlers when he was 3 or 4 (I can’t even remember now exactly when) because his sister was also taking gymnastics. And I was tired of Ethan hanging from towel racks and tearing them out of the wall. When he was 5, he watched me trying to teach Hannah a back handspring. He looked at me and just did it, all on his own without any help. I was pretty amazed at that move. When Hannah was about 9, she decided to quit gymnastics and focus on Irish Dance. At that time, I think I commented that now I wouldn’t have to drive to gymnastics anymore. He said, “but I still want to go.” So I continued to drive him, as I still do today–now 5 days per week. Thankfully, Chris helps with much of the driving and I pay another gymnast at his high school to drive Ethan, when he isn’t immersed in homework (he is a senior, merit scholar etc. and I’ll lose him to college next year–but he has been one of my most dependable employees ever).

Ethan is now a level 10 gymnast, which is the highest level he can be so he’ll stay at this level for the remainder of his high school days, unless he should injure out of the sport–which often happens at this level. What amazes me the most is that Ethan does double back layouts off the high bas. He also does double backs on the floor. Back in 1984, when Mary Lou Retton did a double back on the floor and earned a perfect 10 (there is no such thing as a perfect 10 anymore) in the Olympics, it was a triumph. At that same time, I was 14 years old and happy to just be able to do a single back flip on the floor. Gymnastics gets more dangerous with each passing year. As does snowboarding, I guess. When I watched Shaun White doing his moves this past week at the Olympics, I thought that perhaps Ethan should take up snowboarding. I could see Ethan doing similar moves, with a similar sort of amazing sense of where his body is, high up in the air. When a journalist asked Shaun White about the risk involved in his sport, he basically commented about how all of life is essentially dangerous, especially driving. Yeah, I guess. But I still hold my head in my hands and only peak out occasionally when Ethan is on high bar. Can you tell I’m proud? I am also proud because Ethan really hasn’t taken the easy way. Ethan really is so athletic, he could have excelled at almost any sport. In fact, his first word was “ball.” Yet he has chosen (or it chose him) a path that is not necessarily popular, that is not well-funded, and that is decidedly under appreciated. I ask Ethan about once a month if he is ready to switch to basketball now–his other love. He always looks at me like I’m crazy and says “no.” When you ask Ethan what he wants to be as an adult, however, Ethan still answers “an NBA player.” Ah yes, and I’m going to be an Olympic athlete. Like mother, like son.

Although Ethan works hard, he also loves to relax. He spends lots of time in his own head. He spends lots of time listening to music–the classics. His all time favorite artist is Bob Dylan. He is also very artistic and drew a fantastic picture of the young Bob Dylan for me for Mother’s Day last year. I feel like gymnastics has sort of stolen time from his artistic development. I so hope Ethan will follow this artistic side when he finally does choose a career path. But it is his path to find. I can only encourage from the sidelines. When I was holding Josh this morning, I recognized that you only get to parent in that totally all encompassing way for such a short time. Now, I no longer can scoop up Ethan or Hannah in my arms and protect them. I can only gently guide and cheer and pray and trust.

Ethan, you have brought so much joy to my life. Happy 15th Birthday my dear son. I love you.


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