Our life with this boy is nothing short of amazing. There are many moments when I want to pinch myself living with everyday Anthony. He is truly a resilient, strong, loving, empathetic, mellow, funny human being. He handles everything life throws at him with grace and dignity.
Through the toughest battles, Anthony is my strength. He will turn to me at the exact moment I need strength and say, “Mom?! I love you more,” as if he knows just what I need to get through it all.
I am incredibly thankful for the messes he creates, the patience he tests, and the mischief he makes. They are all reminders of what could have been. Those moments all encourage me to count my blessings.
Everyday Anthony is a superhero. He reminds me of that daily. It’s the flip side I forget. Sure, superheroes are superhuman. But, how often do we forget that behind the mask they are just that- human.
That being said, as humans, superheroes have weaknesses. Sometimes, my husband and I need a gentle reminder of that when it comes to our son. We take his remarkable ability to face the toughest situations with a smile on his face for granted.
He exudes such bravery. He handles everything this journey of survivorship throws at him with a positive attitude. Maybe it’s his strength, bravery, and smile that cause us to forget that he’s still only human. That he’s still just a kid.
As his parents, we fail here. We fail to remember that he’s only 4. We fail to recognize that behind his strength is fear. We mistake the confusion. We’re surprised by his frustration. We miss the signs of exhaustion. We fail to consider that he is, in fact, human.
Tonight, we were reminded of these things. The things we sometimes forget. The things we miss.
We’ve been in this hospital since 2 PM. Once his appointment with his neurologist was over, Anthony wanted to go home. His sleep study was scheduled for 7:30 PM, so we did our best to keep him occupied. When the time finally came to settle into his room, he was adamant that he would NOT be sleeping here.
After some serious kicking and screaming…literally, he finally got him hooked up to all the monitors. The worst was not over, though. He was angry and sad. He just wanted to go home! He even growled at the tech. And, as I looked at his tear-soaked face, noticing his red cheeks and glossy eyes, I was surprisingly…SURPRISED!
Getting needles and IVs has become a near-impossible challenge these days, but Anthony has never had a hard time with tests. In his mind, as we’ve explained, he’s letting the doctors watch how his superpowers work. He is helping other kids get the superpowers they need to fight their own illnesses.
Tonight, he didn’t want to help anymore.
As I watched him struggle, my heart sincerely ached for him. I felt so so SO sorry for what he was feeling as he started this test.
I thought about the fact that he’s been through so much, that he’s only 4. I recognized his fear. There was no mistaking his confusion as he wondered why we were forcing him to be here. He was clearly tired. I wholeheartedly felt his pain and frustration as our eyes locked.
As we calmed him down and he eventually trooped through it, I realized something…
In fact, isn’t it their weaknesses that make us relate to them so well?
Any superhero that’s ever sparked my interest has weaknesses and flaws and faults. Superman’s weakness? Kryptonite. Iron Man’s weakness? His heart. Wolverine’s weakness? Magnets. Even Batman struggles with his own demons and weaknesses.
On one hand, we know that superheroes inspire us because they have these amazing strengths that seem inhuman.
But, is that what really inspires us about superheroes?
Shouldn’t we be more impressed by their ability to display, face, and eventually overcome their weaknesses?
After all, aren’t their flaws the one thing we can relate to with superheroes?
When I look at any inspirational figure in life, I’ve always been more impressed by what makes them real.
I’m way more impressed by someone who can accept their faults, face challenges head on, and navigate the pains of life.
Tonight I was reminded that it’s my son’s weaknesses that make him a superhero. Because he finds strength despite those weaknesses.
Although Anthony is truly a little superhero, this is all super tough stuff for him. Sometimes, like tonight, it’s too tough. Sometimes, he doesn’t want to be strong. He doesn’t want to be brave. Sometimes, he doesn’t want to be a superhero. He wants to be Anthony. Sometimes, maybe he doesn’t think he can be a superhero. And that’s ok!
When I think back to the fact that he is JUST 4-years-old, I feel sorry for him.
I’m sorry that he has been given this superhuman fight. I’m sorry he’s got to show up to this day after day. I’m even more sorry that he’s got to show up even when he REALLY doesn’t want to. I’m sorry that he needs to be strong and brave. I’m sorry that it’s all just too much sometimes.
But, I’m also grateful. Grateful for his life.
And I’m grateful for fictional superheroes.
We all face challenges, tragedy, or bouts of adversity at some point in our lives. Our heart, the center of our existence, proves that. If you’ve ever watched a cardiac monitor, the ups and downs of your heartbeat prove that you’re alive.
As long as there are rises and drops, your heart still beats.
When those spikes and dips stop…
When that line goes flat…
…you know what happens?
You, my friend, are no longer living.
Life teaches us that there will always be ups and downs.
But, life also teaches us that the hard times are temporary. Our weaknesses do not define us. Life goes on.
If we’re lucky, life gives us a second chance.
If we’re lucky, life awards us the opportunity to learn from our weaknesses today and turn them into our strengths tomorrow.
Fictional superheroes tell the real story of life. Every superhero in history has grappled with some huge life challenge. They’ve faced adversity. They’ve risen from tragedy. They’ve served a higher calling.
What makes them different than the guy next door?
They ascend from adversity.
They turn their weaknesses into strengths.
They are resilient.
Resilience is what makes us seem like we’ve come through the fire unscathed.
I’ll let you in on a little truth about resilience. NO ONE comes through the fire completely unscathed. We may look as though we’ve returned to our original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched, but something will definitely be different when you come out of that fire alive. Somewhere, seen or unseen, there will be a scar.
Today, Anthony faced one of the many downs he’ll encounter throughout his life.
He was tired. He was frustrated. He was DONE.
He looked at me and said, “Mom…I want to go home. I am NOT sleeping here! Tell Johnny he can be a superhero because I’m done with this sh*t.”
Once we giggled together after I sternly told him that sh*t is still a bad word and he can’t say it even if he is having a hard time. We cried a little. And then…
We moved on.
This resilient boy endured the hardship of today’s test.
He is now sleeping soundly beside me.
Today was a day that this superhuman hung up the super and was just human. And, that was perfectly ok.
In fact, it was good. It reminded us that now’s the perfect time for a little more patience, some extra understanding, and lots and lots of love.
When Anthony wakes up tomorrow, I know he’ll be proud of himself. He’ll smile when we tell him how proud we are of him, knowing himself that although it was hard, he saw it through. When it’s all done, he’ll have gotten so much more out of this experience than we could ever give him as his parents.
Tonight, he sleeps. Tomorrow, he’ll overcome.
After all, that’s what REAL superheroes do!