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Cate Pane Headshot

I Was Raised By My Teenage Son

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Panic-stricken that the water rushing down my legs would ruin the upholstery of his company car, my husband covered the seat of his sedan with an enormous, brown, plastic garbage bag. Experiencing frequent contractions and piercing pain, I lacked the energy to express my anger toward him for worrying more about the interior of a car than the comfort of his pregnant, laboring wife.

We arrived at the hospital. 12 hours of contractions and pushing later, we welcomed our egg-headed wonder into our lives.

When I held my firstborn in my arms, I was so surprised. I had been in such unrelenting agony that I had actually forgotten the purpose of my suffering. I had given birth to a beautiful, brown-eyed baby boy. We named him John.

John was so little.

John was so sweet.

John was so not what I expected.

Honestly, the day we brought our newborn across the threshold of our home, the angst began. I feared that I wouldn't be able to be the mother he deserved. I'm not just talking about the typical trepidation of a new mom. I'm talking terror. I knew nothing about being a mother.

I never wanted to have children. Having spent the last eight years of my professional life in early intervention of children with developmental delays, I knew more about child development than child-rearing. Frank had assured me. "You'll be a great mom." I heard the words in my head but never felt them in my heart.

The first few years were spent in obsessive checking of developmental charts, perusing parenting books and keeping copious notes of milestones met. I was mothering in the same fashion I had taught. Teaching came naturally, but maternal instincts were simply absent within me.

Having grown up in a family of six children under less than ideal conditions, I had always seen having a family as an unwelcome burden.

John wasn't a burden. I loved him immensely. I was just so very, very fearful of being anything less than what he merited.

Thankfully, as time passed, I began to notice that if I was unsure of how to deal with a new stage or symptom, I could seek clarity in conversations with friends, relevant research and in simply listening to my instincts.

As the years passed, the self-doubt turned to the peaceful assurance of knowing that I was doing the best that I possibly could.

I felt relief in the realization that I would never perfect parenting. It was enough to know that I had developed a means for clarifying confusion. I made many mistakes along the way, but somehow, I found a way to turn things around when I became aware of my mishaps.

I was continually progressing along the path of "clear parenting."

So 17 years later, I look back on the day my beautiful boy was born.

I am filled with gratitude. Gratitude for the young man he has become. Gratitude for the way that he loves so very deeply. Most of all, gratitude for the way he made a doubt-filled woman into a mom who is overwhelmed with delight.

Children are typically patiently raised by their mothers (and fathers).

John very patiently raised me.

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