This is for all parents of young children who worry about what kind of adults they will be one day. So pretty much this is for all parents.
Our baby boy was a joy, sweet-natured and quiet, a tyke who loved to create elaborate zoos around the living room with his colorful collection of plastic animals. Entire cities of Lego buildings by this budding architect (or so I imagined) turned his bedroom floor into a hazardous zone for barefoot walkers. He also loved to draw, and filled page after notebook page with colored-pencil creatures and superheroes.
He did well academically, and his behavior never gave a teacher any grief. That was reserved for us at home, where he would, in his younger days, throw a tantrum or two around odd issues. The new turtleneck didn’t “feel right” on him, and he didn’t like his sneakers.
We were told he had sensory-deprivation issues, and a round of physical therapy was ordered. It helped immensely to acclimate this sensitive boy to the clamorous wider world around him. He was awkward physically, and never at home on the athlete’s turf. By the time he got to high school, though, all that angst seemed to dissipate, as if by magic.
How many stories end happily this way, when a talented teacher enters a child’s life? We sent our boy to a school we knew was focused on each child’s needs and individual strengths. Devin was encouraged and supported at the Park School, where a history teacher, the late Tom Bailey, challenged and applauded his intellect. Bailey was also the drama teacher, and he recognized a thespian in the making. Devin started appearing on the school stage as a freshman, and by senior year, he was the lead in a moving production of “The Crucible.” He was still the kind of kid who moved to his own inner rhythm; not always registering, to his detriment, what was in immediate proximity. Two weeks before the show opened, he tripped on a backpack left on the floor, and broke his ankle. Luckily, the show was a period production, and Devin’s cast was invisible under his Pilgrim-white tights.
The important thing was he’d found a niche, an outlet for expression and a boost to his self-esteem. He went on to get undergraduate and master’s degrees, and is a preschool teacher in New York.
On Saturday, Devin is getting married in Buffalo to a brilliant young lady he met in New York. As they plan a wonderful life together, I’ve been thinking of all those times I worried about Devin growing up. I remember the night terrors that kept us all sleep-deprived when he was 4, and the pep talks I gave him on our way to the bus stop every morning through those unsteady middle school years. I always knew he had it in him to be the man he is today, but it is so hard to see that future light when you are a parent struggling through some dark days of childhood.
We hope my 92-year-old mother, who suffers from dementia and resides in an assisted living facility, will be able to join us for the wedding ceremony. I see her every day, and every day I say, “Devin’s getting married!” Unable to remember what we discussed so recently, she responds with the same delighted, “He is!,” as a broad smile lights her face. I don’t mind saying the same thing over and over. It is an affirmation of our family’s joy, and perhaps also a reminder that parental anxiety really should be leavened with a little faith.