Have you ever had to be so REAL with your child that it hurt? – Like you were punched in the gut?! Well, today I managed to stay authentic when parenting got real, it was down-right raw!
It was a normal afternoon after school pickup. The kids’ mouths didn’t stand still for a minute. They were telling stories about their day, asking for help with their homework – all in unison, because, of course mama can carry four conversations at the same time. Jordan looked at me with his big blue eyes, his new haircut aged him beyond his seven years. He quietly said: “Mama, the other kids said I have a bald spot in the back of my head!” – and with that comment this parenting gig just got real!
There is currently a lot of talk about “authenticity” and the importance of being authentic with our children. Ever since I read “The Danish Way of Parenting“, I have been more mindful about those things when I speak with our four boys. I want them to know true feelings and emotions. I don’t want them growing up numb and emotionally stunted. (There is nothing like putting a little more parenting pressure on yourself!)
I have dreaded and feared this day for seven years, but at the same time, I am celebrating being able to have this talk. It is no secret that Jordan had a rough start at life. I don’t write very often about his journey, because it is HIS story. Granted I played an important role in it, but for privacy reasons, I want to respect that he may not want ALL his medical details published on his mother’s blog. So forgive me in advance for not sharing all the nitty-gritty or photographs from that time.
Jordan just turned 7 a few weeks ago. Over the past several months he has been asking more and more questions about “when I was really sick as a baby.” We have always managed to have open, frank and authentic, yet age-appropriate conversations with him. Up until now, it was the fact that he rode in an ambulance and flew in a helicopter that was super cool to him. But then last night our conversation matured.
[bctt tweet=”Staying #authentic when #parenting gets real! – Because #ParentingMatters! “]
Some of the kids in school had noticed a scar, and asked him about it. I remember every detail about the scar, but just never thought to tell him the story. It is on an area of his body that he can’t see, and most people wouldn’t even notice it – unless of course, you are a curious 1st grader! So we spent time last night looking at all his scars. They are mostly small poke holes from PICC lines and central lines. He was unaware that they were there, but interested in learning WHY he had them. He asked, questioned and inquired – and I tried my best to answer, enlighten and reassure.
There are no scripts for these types of conversations. I was actually going to write a post tonight: “How to talk to your child about serious medical conditions”, when I realized that generalizing would do more harm than good. There is NOTHING I can tell another parent to prepare them for “the talk” with their medically complex child. So instead, I will tell you how it went for us, how REAL, raw and emotionally intense it felt. Knowing that THIS MOMENT will be forever etched in your child’s memory is something that will make most parents’ palms sweat. THIS, my friend, is when parenting gets REAL!
Our conversation last night went so well that he asked to see a picture from when he was in the PICU, when he was really truly SICK. So I obliged, because when you say “a”, you have to say “b”, “c”… “d” – and be prepared to go as far into the alphabet as he is willing to go.
After school, I fired up my laptop, sat down with him on the couch with my arm around his shoulder. He quietly melted into me and confirmed that he REALLY wanted to see a picture. I found one that was taken right before Christmas in 2008. There was of course nothing graphic about the photo. To the untrained eye, it would have just looked like a sleeping baby with lots of plastic tubing around him. But to me it was proof that the worst and longest 8 weeks of our lives actually DID happen. The two months that ended up defining me as a mother and that would rock our family to the core.
Jordan looked at the image on the screen. His big blue eyes grew bigger and more intense. He humbly asked “is THAT me?” – I drew him a little closer against me, nodded quietly and said “yes, honey, that is you,” and then I held my breath.
I knew that NOW was not the time for my fancy word-smithing or story telling. This conversation was not ABOUT me or FOR me. I was there, by invitation only, to answer questions. He wanted to know what ALL the cords and lines were for, so I explained ever so matter-of-factly. He asked if it was night time, since he was sleeping. I told him that they had given him medicine to sleep like that, day and night – for three weeks. He learned the term “medically induced coma.”
He asked if he was the only sick baby I had ever had, and if he was the sickest baby in that hospital. I told him, honestly, that he was our special baby, and he was flown to that particular hospital because they were the best at healing sick babies. I told him they had a hospital full of babies, sick like he was, and some were even sicker.
He then asked who saved his life. I quietly thanked God that he asked the question THAT way, and not more directly about what the possible outcome could have been. I told him, truthfully, that his pediatrician saved his life the first time around, and then his cardiologist, several times thereafter. The big blue eyes looked up at me, with a smile and said “I guess, I owe them then!” I replied “we both do!” and then we laughed, hugged – and started to review his spelling words for the week.
I referenced my favorite parenting book earlier in the post: “The Danish Way of Parenting“. This book is a great read for parents anywhere because: parenting matters!
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