Thirty five years ago I was on the eve of the birth of my first child, my son, Rick.
He was the child who seldom gave me much trouble -- sweet and compliant, careful and deliberate, steady and sure. He grew from year to year, doing all the right things on exactly the right schedule, and while he could be stubborn, he was almost never difficult. About the only real issue that I encountered, parenting this boy was the annual trip to purchase school clothes. He and I did not appreciate the same things, and what he did not like he would have no part of. After a time, I simply gave up and sent him shopping with his father. He navigated the depths and shoals of adolescence with nary a bump, and he was careful to protect me from the few indiscretions of his youth. I only ever had one call from the school authorities concerning him. On that occasion, they had found him selling condoms (at a tidy profit) to his 6th grade buddies who were too embarrassed to go buy them for themselves. I worked hard to sound appropriately appalled, but was frankly amused by his entrepreneurial vision.
When he turned 16, he went to work delivering pizzas, and with very few exceptions, that was the work he did for many, many years.
He set off to college, hoping to study forestry. Sadly, in the spring of his freshman year, his college roommate and good friend took his own life. My Rick found his friend, and it broke his heart. He came home, went back to the pizza route -- and never went back to college.
Sixteen months after Rick was born, his sister, Sarah, made her appearance. She was, and is, about as different from her brother as anyone could have been. Wild, impulsive, volatile -- Sarah is all of that and more. She was a delightful and wickedly bright child, but keeping up with her antics left me perpetually exhausted.
Sarah's path remains difficult. Only a couple of days ago, I received a phone call to tell me that she has been arrested again and sent to prison -- most likely that is a parole violation that will land her in the correction system until sometime next year. It is the sort of news that causes me to curl up in a ball and sob with a pain that lives deep in my belly while in my head I can only cry, "my baby, my baby!" I know I cannot save her. I know she must do that for herself. Still, each time we cycle back through this, I hurt afresh.
So. Here I am, caught as I have been for most of my adult life, between my two very different children. Loving them both as they are, with all the joys and sorrows that brings...