Written by contributor Arianna Carlson of For the Love of Motherhood
When our babies are born we hope for perfection. This includes ten little fingers and ten little toes. What we don’t account for are the unforeseeable bumps and bruises, illnesses, broken bones, and surgeries that may come throughout their lives. Some are expected (fevers, colds, and the flu), some are prepared for (by wearing helmets, seat beats, and knee pads), but how do you handle the news of something you didn’t plan, or prepare for? More importantly, how do you prepare your child?
As a mom, I want to protect my baby, protect him from what is present, and protect him from the future. I want to save his innocence, and keep him away from hurt.
But we all know that life doesn’t work that way. We can’t hide our children from experiencing what life is, and we don’t want to shelter them from living. So how do we protect them? And from what do we protect them? Are we doing more harm than good from keeping them overly protected? Or, do we teach them resilience by letting them fall down, and then simply being there to help them up?
Children are resilient, probably more than we are as adults. Perhaps this is because they don’t hold the same fears we do, or that they trust more, give more freely, and accept what is.
When my son was two years old, he had to have surgery. I wasn’t afraid of the surgery itself; we had an excellent doctor, one I trusted and felt 100% comfortable with. The procedure was “simple”, correctable, and minor in the bigger scheme of things, but I was still afraid. I was afraid because I didn’t want Braden to feel pain, be scared, worried, or “scarred” for life (not literally, of course). I didn’t want him to fear the hospital, doctors, and nurses. I didn’t want him to not trust that I would always keep him safe, or feel that I had, in some way, failed him, because he would feel pain.
Of course, Braden would feel pain whether or not he had this hospital experience. He will feel pain when he falls and scrapes his knee. He will feel pain when a toy is taken away from him by a friend, when he hears “no” after he asks for a second helping of ice cream, when he misses Daddy because he’s been away for so long, or when he experiences his first heartbreak. As a mother, I want to protect him, but my job is not necessarily to prevent the pain, it’s to help him through it and help him prepare for it.
And so, that’s what I did. I prepared Braden for his hospital experience. I shared with him what would happen, what to expect, and how it might feel before and after the surgery. I did my best to hold it together and provide a sense of confidence as he went through it. It wouldn’t have been fair, after all, if I put my fears onto Braden. This was his experience, his story to create, his feelings to have. I only wanted to provide a solid foundation for him to feel safe.
As expected with children and their resilient and magical way, Braden sailed through the experience. He was informed, empowered, and comfortable. I’m not saying it wasn’t hard, or that he didn’t feel discomfort, but he knew what to expect, trusted what was happening, complied when necessary, and voiced his discomfort when he needed to.
I think, or I hope anyway, that he walked away from this experience feeling protected, healed, and loved.