Knaak: A mother’s growing pains
My son has always been big — I’ve said this before — but just to revisit the facts — I gained a lot of weight when I was pregnant, and knew I would have a big baby, but at 10 pounds, 5 ounces, he topped the charts at the hospital that week. He wasn’t late and I didn’t have gestational diabetes; he was just a really big kid.
He only wore the newborn size for the first two weeks. By the time he turned 1, we had burned through all the baby-shower items and were buying 24 month-sized clothes.
When he was about 2 1/2, he started to complain that his legs hurt. I tried to get more information — along the shin bones? Feet? Hips? He’d always been vocal, but was still learning words, and “My legs hurt” was as much detail as he could give.
I was, naturally, concerned, and talked with his pediatrician about it. She asked tons of questions … did he complain in the morning? Evening? (Morning.) Maybe he didn’t want to go to daycare? (Our little politician — happiest in a crowd of constituents? Never.) Did I treat him differently when he complained? (Somewhat.) Special food, or light massage? (No, and yes.)
We talked about a number of possibilities — everything from simple over-excursion to the terrifying prospect of Lupus. We did some tests, watched (im)patiently, and in the end, we concluded … it was growing pains. He was off-the-chart large — at the 100th percentile of his age in weight and height — and he grew twice as fast as other kids his age. It must have been painful for his muscles and bones to extend twice the typical length in the same amount of time. I conceded to watch for changes, but accept it.
There wasn’t anything I could to stop it from happening — and in the end, it was natural and what needed to happen, but … it hurt. And it was hard for me to accept that I couldn’t shield him from it.
Fast forward a dozen years…
Tyler played little league football for two years. Last year, as a high school freshman, he played football and joined the wrestling team. In the spring, he had spring training, which spilled into summer, and scrimmages and games resumed in August.
In the first actual junior varsity game, Tyler’s elbow was injured. By an opponent’s helmet.
We took him to get an X-ray — it wasn’t broken but he had a compression injury to the growth plate in his elbow.
I asked the doctor, “Um, how much room is there left in his growth plate?”
I guess this wasn’t the typical response of a parent. He looked a little confused.
“Well,” I said, realizing I was already presenting as crazy-mom, “is he going to grow? Like, A LOT more…?”
The doctor smiled. “It’s hard to tell. Elbow growth plates aren’t as easy to read as necks or hands … he MIGHT be close to done…”
Sigh. MIGHT? Be CLOSE? My 15-year-old is 6-foot-6 and currently weighs about 250. Some days there’s just not enough food in my house.
The team doctor, the team trainer, the coaches and my husband and I all agreed — he would sit this season out. As a sophomore, he would have plenty of opportunities to play in the coming years. And if we allowed him the time to heal, he would be stronger for it. Having been in contact sports and training consistently for the past four years, his body was in a constant state of recovery from consistent abuse. A couple of months of relative rest would be really restorative to his body in general.
Sometime into the second week of his recovery, I asked how his body felt, overall. He told me he felt great! Rested and strong. Frustrated he couldn’t play, and his elbow still hurt, but the rest of him felt really good. Amazing how not getting beat up daily makes someone feel better.
I asked him if he thought the constant discomfort was just from training and games — or if maybe some of it had been from growing. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I dunno, Mom. I pretty much hurt all the time. I figured it was probably just from sports, but maybe some of it is from growing.” Well, that wouldn’t be a huge shock. I did the math in my head and realized he has added at least three inches to his height, each year, for the past three years. It can’t have been easy on his body to grow at least a quarter of an inch every month for the past 36 months.
Which is why I asked the doctor the question “Will he grow … a LOT more?”
There is quite literally nothing I can do about his physical growth. But I’ve been actively working on his emotional and personal growth. … When he was little, I told myself I wanted him mostly independent by the time he turned 16. Able to plan and cook meals, manage money, do his own laundry, grocery shop, clean his bathroom and bedroom … have the basic “adult” skills he needed, before learning to drive. Because I knew that once he was behind the wheel, it would consume the majority of his non-school, non-friends, non-sports time.
And now, he’s driving. He’s been taking driver’s ed through school, and we’ve been letting him drive on family outings. And it is terrifying. As any parent of a teenager will attest — giving them the permission to pilot a 3,000-pound death trap at 70 miles per hour, knowing it can take them, you, and random strangers out with a single mistake is … heart stopping.
But this is the first major step toward independence. Not to mention a rite all of us enjoyed. It’s just … besides being terrifying (and, he’s actually a good driver) it makes me a little sad to not be needed anymore. But as much as it might sting … I have to let it happen.
And I guess these are my growing pains. There is nothing I can do to stop it — and in the end, it’s natural and what needs to happen, but in the midst of the process … it hurts. I have to hope that someday soon, once I give myself the chance to rest and recoup, I will start to feel like him, rested and strong. Ready for whatever that day throws at me, even Sunday in the Park…
Jenny Knaak, guest columnist, is the daughter of Teri Orr, the customary author of “Sunday in The Park.”
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