When Nick asked me to write a post for his blog detailing my experience of raising an overweight child, I jumped at the chance. Mind you, this is not because I have any miraculous answers to share, but it gives me the chance to expound on the unique and wonderful experience of being his mother.
To begin, I want to share an experience I have had recently that has touched me in a profound way. Every morning, while driving to work, at the same time and place, I see a young boy about 14 years old walking to school. He is overweight, walks with his head down, and looks preoccupied. The look on his face exudes anything but confidence. The emotional reaction I have after seeing this young boy every morning catches me by surprise. I still get tears in my eyes any time I think about him. He reminds me of Nick when he was that age. It is difficult to imagine how hard it is to be a teenager while dealing with the issue of obesity. When I read the stories of the bullying Nick endured, my heart ached. He never shared all of these experiences with me. To his credit, he could see my plate was full with my own issues as I tried to keep our family running with any degree of functionality.
Nick gets mad at me when I say my life has been a train wreck, but the fact remains that after two unhealthy marriages, and more moves than I can count, I honestly don’t know how my children survived their childhoods. In reality, I think it is possible that Nick turned to food for comfort because it is one of the only places he could find comfort. True, he was built differently than his brothers with a tendency to he heavier, but the combination of his genetic make up and his situation at home created a perfect storm that, in my mind, could be one of the things that drove him to food to seek comfort. Food was a constant in his life when nothing else was. It was always there for him, even when life at home became tough to handle.
As I told Nick about the unhappy overweight teenager I see on my way to work, I told him about the affect the kid has had on me. I think about this overweight child often, and he still haunts me. Seeing him everyday has made me realize that with all the stress in my own life at the time, perhaps I did not fully realize all of the trauma Nick was facing. Perhaps, this is true with all parents to some degree. There is a lot of energy expounded as we try to “keep all of the balls bouncing” in our families. That being said, I can honestly say I did the best I could given the situation. I never loved Nick less because of his weight, but I did not know how to help him without crushing his already tender ego and low self image.
Enter Nick’s hero / angel. We moved in with my parents after my second divorce. My father was a marathon runner, and he stepped up to assume the father role in Nick’s life. I will always respect and revere him for taking the time to truly become involved in Nick’s life. I learned that, although I did my best as a mother (and Nick knows that), mothers make lousy fathers. Fathers are crucial figures in a child’s development. Although Nick’s father was a great provider and we never wanted for anything materially, there is much more to being a father than writing a check. My father did not have deep pockets but he was long on heart and that is what Nick needed most at this time in his life. He started running because his Grandpa Morgan asked him to, the seed was planted and the rest is history.
If I could say anything at all to the parents out there, it is this; you cannot blame yourselves because your child has a weight problem. A certain percentage of people struggle with this issue, just as a certain percentage are gay and a certain percentage are prone toward alcoholism. We have dealt with all three of these issues in our family and all three of my sons are doing well. I discovered just as I could not blame myself for their issues, I can not take credit for their successes. We simply love them, offer support in any way that we can and pray a lot. God is aware of us and He sends angels to help. With my son Matthew, it was the AA program and a sponsor named Jimbo. Matt is now 11 years sober with a beautiful wife, a great job, a house and a precious baby boy. Ryan said his angels were the members of our family. He really thought we would disown him when he “came out.” Little did he know that the love in our family goes much deeper than one’s sexual orientation. He is now pursuing a wonderful career with Ralph Lauren in NYC. It is our hope that he will someday find a partner who is worthy of his love and companionship. Nick’s angel was his Grandpa Morgan. He planted the seed of running in Nick’s life and Nick has taken the baton and gone farther than any of us ever dreamed he would. He also has a wonderful wife, a beautiful daughter, a good job, and a home.
I believe we all have stumbling blocks of one kind or another in our lives and we decide whether to let them block our progress or, with the help of angels, turn them into stepping stones on our journey which enable us to help others. I am grateful to the angles that were sent to help Nick and my other sons as well. To all of you parent’s out there, I would say, keep loving your children, offer support wherever you can and pray constantly in their behalf. Then allow them the freedom to find the angels who will help them along their life’s journey. God is at the helm, these are his children too and I know from personal experience, He never lets us down.