Defining Owen

I always seem to pick the slowest line at the store.  Yesterday wasn’t any different.  It wasn’t until I had everything out of the basket and on the conveyor belt that I realized the cashier was in training.  Not only was he painstakingly slow, he also didn’t respond to my repeated requests to please scan the boys’ baseball set and bumpy ball so they would stop asking for them.  Isn’t it in Cashiering 101 to appease all small children first?

The cashier who was doing the training sensed our impatience enough to try to keep us entertained.  We often hear the same things about our boys.  “Look at their beautiful red hair” and then “Oh, those curls!”  Owen knows this is for him and then he gives a cheesy little smile that says, “yes, I know I’m cute”.

I knew what was coming next.  “How old is he?”   But this time was different, before I could say anything, she and Owen spoke in unison.  Hers a question?  “Two?” and his a proud statement, “Two”.

I didn’t know which direction to target my beams of joy.  Towards Owen for engaging in the conversation without my coercion?  Towards this stranger who thought he looked two?  Or back to Owen for actually looking like a two-year-old?  Or, wait, should it be to the woman because she didn’t follow the question with a look that asked, “so…what’s wrong with him?”

It’s funny how such an innocuous question like, “how old is he,” can feel like a loaded inquisition.  I’ve posted in the past how I had stopped correcting Owen’s age long before doctors did. But, I will admit, I still often felt the need to explain.   I guess I never questioned that need, until in this instance, when I didn’t have to.

After confirming Owen was two, she turned to Kellen and asked if he was 5 or 6.  He beamed too.  She said she was surprised he’s only four because Kellen is much taller than her four-year-old.  You know, I didn’t feel the need to say, “he’s tall because I’m 5’10” and his dad is tall, too.”  I felt no need to explain something that is meant to be a positive.  I mean seriously, think about it, when your kid is said to be smart or attractive, do you ever feel like you need to explain it?  (It should be obvious it’s because they have stunning geniuses for parents).

Why do we (I) feel that we have to explain why our kids are less than average in something?  Owen actually is pretty big for a former micro preemie (~34″ and 24 lbs at 27 months), but his abilities are not that of the average two-year-old.  Yes, there are several reasons why Owen is where he is.  But (and it’s a big but), I feel like every time I explain that he’s amazing “all things considering”, I’m reminding him (and Kellen) that he’s different…in a less than way.

The truth is, there probably won’t be a day in his life that Owen won’t think about the fact that he was a micro preemie.  Even IF he gets lucky and is one of the few micro preemies that doesn’t have life-long disabilities, every time he looks in the mirror he’ll see scars covering his abdomen, on his back, on his neck and his arms and wrists.    Every time he goes to the beach or gets intimate with a girl (or boy), he’s going to be asked to explain.

Being a former micro preemie is a part of his story and I want Owen to be proud of how far he has come.  However, being a former micro preemie does not define Owen…and I never want it to be his excuse for giving up on his dreams.  Owen has the rest of his life to define who he is.  It’s my job to make sure that he understands his possibilities…not in spite of his disabilities…but regardless of them.

Thank you, Target Cashier Trainer-lady.  I needed that reminder.


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16 thoughts on “Defining Owen

  1. Thanks Tatum. I always explain “he’s not walking yet because…..” Sometimes these words come out before I even say hi to our friends. I needed that..and a Kleenex.

    • Next time we get together, I’m pretty sure I’ll be gifting a box of Kleenex to you…it seems I tend to up your need for them. Honestly, Julie, W is one of the most amazing stories I know. I’ll never forget meeting you at the Pizza joint across from the hospital and hearing you were still there after four months. I figured you must be on your way home, I never imagined 4 and 5 months later the boys would be nursery mates. W is definitely a man who can show odds exactly where to go, I’m proud to know him…and you.

  2. So, so true. Perfectly stated Tatum! 🙂 Owen is rocking, so you can be one proud Mama. No need to explain anything. How many times did you almost lose him in the first year? During those moments, you would have given anything in the world to know that you’d have him at Target someday, and he’d be telling the cashier how old he is. You and Owen have done a great job and he’s come SO FAR from those scary moments. Let’s celebrate that instead of explaining why he isn’t doing this or that. Let’s face it, he’s pretty amazing!

  3. Loved this! It’s amazing how we can come to be reminded of something we feel so strongly about, but don’t think of that often. I KNOW Owen will do amazing things with his life. I don’t doubt that Kellen or my micro-preemies will too! 🙂

  4. While Boo is not a premie, she is beyond petite. Combined with her developmental age I too am always feeling like I should give her two ages. Kudos to that cashier for not only getting it but making your day!

    • I know she’s betrothed to Tucker and all, but we have to at least get Boo and Owen together for some of the cutest red, curly haired peanuts ever contest.

  5. “….. not in spite of. .. disabilities, but regardless of them” = Powerful Words
    Thank you just what I needed 🙂

  6. Hi there, visiting from Love That Max blogger link up!

    My son is also Owen, he’s four, and has Down syndrome. He is also very short for his age so we get a lot of “oh, he’s four? He’s so small!” I always cringe when that is said because I know they are going to ask why if they haven’t already really looked at his face and seen that he has Ds.

    This was such a wonderful post!

  7. You never know — my godson was a micropreemie (barely 1 lb, 3 mos premature, didnt leave the nicu until he was nearly 4 mos old) and is now a happy, healthy third-grader. You’d never, ever guess he had such an early/scary start 😉

  8. This post made me think about how my son may define his diagnosis of a stroke and how he will choose to see it, since his appears invisible. Our sons are the same age!

  9. I have been following your blog for a few weeks now and I am very much intrigued and impressed by Owen’s story. You are a great story teller and an inspiration. I recently started a blog about our Louie, and we can relate to Owen and your family in many ways. Let’s keep in touch, our boys are amazing!

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