When specific memories of Julian pop into my head, they usually make me smile. Sometimes they remind me of not just the memory itself, but who he was as a person. And every once in a while, something triggers a memory that not only makes me smile and remember the person he was, they teach me something about myself today.
One of those memories, of all things to be one of those memories, is of his potty-training process. I’d heard (or maybe just hoped) that the second child is usually easier to potty train than the first child, because he’d be motivated to be a “big boy” like his brother. As we began the process with Julian, I thought back on how it went with his big brother, three years earlier.
I remembered how my husband and I had to bribe Oscar by giving him rewards during and after he used the potty. We were weaning him off his pacifier at the time, so that became the most successful bribe — Oscar could have his pacifier in bed and on the potty, but nowhere else. (Admittedly this arrangement was wrought with mixed messages, but it worked, so we went with it.)
So, that’s the approach we took with Julian. We offered him bribes, and parental peer pressure. “Oscar uses the potty! Don’t you want to be just like Oscar? He’s such a big boy! Don’t you want to be a big boy like Oscar?!?!”
Turned out, Julian couldn’t be bribed. He also wasn’t falling for the parental peer pressure nonsense. “No, Mommy.” he said one day, as I was attempting to get him to try the potty. (Just try! Don’t you want to be a big boy?)
“No Mommy, I don’t want to be big. I want to be little.”
And then he walked out of the bathroom. There would be no compromise. He understood his options, and he made his choice: Little.
As a person who has spent most of her life being goal-driven, I was perplexed by this. He just didn’t want to move on to the next milestone in his growing-up process. And he wasn’t giving me any excuses or explanations, either.
Thinking back on this today, not only can I smile at the memory, I can be inspired by him. Over the past few months I have been on a bit of a growing-up process myself. In some areas of my life, I’ve been working hard to un-goal myself. In other areas of my life, I’ve been trying to set new types of goals for things I’ve never done before.
One of the things I’ve never done before is run a 5K. So about 3 months ago, I decided I’d run in the “Time to Fly” for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. We have a team that runs (and walks) in memory of Julian — “Joggers for Julian.” I figured, what better motivation could there be? I’d do something I’ve never done, and I’d do it in honor of Julian.
I registered for the run, told my friends and family my plan, and started a training program. At first, the training went fine. Then, not so fine. Then, I started getting really stressed about it. But I continued to slog my way through the training program, because I said I was going to do it (dammit!).
So much of my life has been spent as a goal-driven non-quitter, it literally didn’t occur to me to NOT run the 5K. Until I remembered the story about Julian’s potty-training. I suddenly became very inspired by the “I want to be little” part. This was a significant epiphany for me, because I have spent most of my life moving forward to the next milestone, the next goal, the next “big.”
Most of the time, I forget that “little” is an option. But Julian didn’t forget that. He knew what his options were, and he knew himself. He was resolute and uninfluenced by bribery or peer pressure. He understood that he was supposed to want to be big, and he probably recognized that big-ness was inevitable. But not yet. Not that day.
So, I let go of the running goal. I decided I no longer wanted to be “big” and run the 5K. I wanted to be “little” and just plan to walk the 5K with my friends and family. In the past, I would have been very critical of myself for making this choice. Today, I smile and think of Julian. I’ll be thinking of him every step of the way on my 5K *walk* this coming Saturday.
And in case you’re wondering… he did eventually become potty-trained: Some time went by, and I half-heatedly continued the potty-training efforts. Then one day, I noticed he had left the room and I couldn’t hear him nearby (3YO + silence = red flag). I went looking for him, and the found him… sitting on the potty chair. “Oh, Sweetie!” I said, “You’re pooping on the potty!”
“Yep,” he said. “I decided to be big. I just decided.”
And from that point on, he was potty trained. Because he decided. He just… decided.
Maybe someday I’ll decide to run the Time to Fly 5K. But not this year. This year, I’m going on a “little” walk.
The event on June 30, 2012 was a wonderful celebration of Julian’s memory. We were overwhelmed and honored by the huge outpouring of support in the form of donations, participation, and encouragement.
We had over 50 people participate on the Joggers for Julian team, and we won 3rd place in overall donations with a grand total of $13,675 raised for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. My husband John also won 2nd place for individual donations.
There was also a “Joggers for Julian – Ohio” event organized by my cousin Mary Catherine, and there will soon be a similar event in Connecticut organized by John’s family.
THANK YOU to everyone who contributed — financially, physically, and emotionally. And last but not least, thank you to Julian for being such an inspiration to those who knew him, those who never met him but have heard his story, and to me. I thoroughly enjoyed every step of the *walk*!
June 26, 2012 at 10:59 pm
Emily, I’m a friend of your Father In Law, Jim. Thank you for your blogs! I became a GRANDfather for the second time this past Saturday! I can’t (and don’t want to) imagine your journey, but I can so appreciate your spirit and your willingness to share the light in your life! Bless you and your whole extended family (& the Joggers for Julian) this Saturday as you celebrate Julian’s memory!
I have been very fortunate to not have lost many that have been close to me. However, I lost my Dad years ago, when my own children were young. To this day, nearly 17 years later, I still think of my Dad when I have things to celebrate, children’s successes, grand children’s births or first steps. I always think to call him and share those bright moments with him because I know he would have celebrated with me. My pride and joy would have been understood and shared. Saturday, I wanted to call Dad and tell him Jessica had given birth to a wonderful, 11 lb., baby boy! I wanted to express my joy and excitement to the man in my life who would have most understood and cheered right along with me. I couldn’t call/visit him with the news. That realization always brings on a “melancholy moment” for me. Those “melancholy moments” have come to be cherished times for me. Perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of the celebration with the sense of loss. But, whatever it is, they are times I can bring together the best of my present with part of the best of my past, part of what made me who I am. It’s a joyful melancholy. I think you’ll know what I mean. I hope your “melancholy moments” can be as warm for you as mine are for me. God Bless . . .
June 27, 2012 at 6:35 am
Emily, I always always enjoy your blog and learning how you and your family are doing. I hope that the walk and run go well and that for you, the walk brings lots of comfort. That you remember some detail about Julian on this walk that you may have forgotten but that you suddenly recall it and it brings a smile to your face.
Leanne (Trebilcock) Avila
June 27, 2012 at 9:30 am
Sitting here and smiling at your stories and at my own memories (and oh, how I don’t miss potty training). My family participates in a similar event, and I’ve never done the run. Like you, maybe someday. But for now, I quite enjoy the “little” walks. Have a fantastic day on Saturday — will be thinking of you and your family.
June 27, 2012 at 12:42 pm
I remember that! And you described it so beautifully! Julian knew himself, and was very confident and content with his life. It’s such an excellent reminder to us, to take all the good memories and personality traits of Julian, and apply them to our own lives. Thank you so much!
I love you!!!!
June 27, 2012 at 3:03 pm
I am constantly amazed at your ability to analyze and learn……this was another beauty.
Lee Ann Villella
June 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm
Beautiful as always and so damn profound. I’m tearing up (as usual) as I write this. Thanks for always inspiring me.
Tom and Darlene Lund
July 9, 2012 at 6:29 pm
Dear Emily and John, Tom and I were so proud to be a part of Jogging for Julian…we wanted to walk the whole way but knew that we couldn’t. So, we walked 1 mile for Julian…and another mile back. It too was a LITTLE thing, however, It was a lovely time to share with others on the way about Julian and scatter his angel dust along the way. Thank you for the shirts…we wore them to church on Sunday after the walk and shared again with many about the event and how so many were there. We are honored to be invited along for the ride…God Bless and love to Oscar.
July 22, 2012 at 4:46 pm
Thank you for your writing. I just came across your blog today and I added it to my site – that I’ve put together for myself and other bereaved parents and families.
My son died just 8 1/2 weeks ago and I have been searching the Internet to read about what other parents have experienced and how they are coping.
Perhaps you, too, will find a few words of comfort.