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Rub Some Dirt On It!


If there's one thing I've learned on this parenting journey, it's that everyone travels through this experience looking through a lens that is tinted by their own experiences, the way they were raised by their own family, their education, and their personalities. 

From the very beginning of parenthood...even before the child pops out of the womb...we, as parents, are bombarded with suggestions and recommendations. Get a doula. Get an epidural. Don't get an epidural. Don't ever co-sleep. Follow your child's lead. Don't feed them solids until they are six months old. Feed them solids early and they will sleep through the night sooner. Enroll them in classes to stimulate their brain. Let them be "free spirits" and explore and play. 

In the words of the great Jimmy Buffett, "If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane."

It's with all this in mind that I reflect on one parenting perspective that is unique to those who have children with life threatening illnesses and I think especially to those parents whose children have died. We don't look at the illnesses and ailments of our other children the same way. Our lens is skewed like a FunHouse mirror. I see this in myself but I have also observed it in other parents who belong to our "club."  It usually goes one of two ways. 

The first parent is hypersensitive to every little sniffle, ache, pain, and cough. Does she have a fever? How many fevers has she had in the last few months? Is this a pattern? Could it be something serious? We need to get this checked out to rule out something worse. 

The second parent is hyposensitive...almost apathetic...to anything but the cataclysmic. You've got a cold? Take some extra vitamin C and go to bed. You fell? Are you bleeding? Can you move? You scraped your knee? Rub some dirt on it! 

Right after her first brain surgery, January 2009
I'm afraid I can fall into that second bucket pretty easily. You see, eight years ago, on January 20, Roger took our daughter to the pediatrician for what we thought was the stomach flu. Before the end of the day, we were admitted to the Pediatric ICU for a brain tumor and two days later, she had her first of three brain surgeries. On top of that, Charlotte endured toxic chemotherapy, catheterizations, two port surgeries, and a host of other medical procedures over the course of a year. And then she died. That's the nightmare situation. In my mind, that's the worst that can happen. 

It's like a lightning strike. What are the odds of it happening again? (Very low, statistically speaking). Just about anything else? I can deal with it. Seriously. I can totally deal with it. 

When you live in the hospital, you take
your fun where you can find it. 
I realize that this is a skewed perspective. Minor surgery for your kid (say, getting their tonsils taken out) can still be a MAJOR event for a family. A sprain or pneumonia are significant events that need to be cared for. More than once, Kiddo has told us something was "wrong" with her and we somewhat brushed it off. The most recent event was a small fall on the ice that turned into a sprained wrist. 

Admittedly, she also tends to cry, whine, and complain at lots of little things (as many kids do) so it kind of turns into a Chicken Little/Girl Who Cried Wolf scenario. It's challenging to know what to take seriously. And then when it is somewhat serious, you feel like an a**hole parent. 

I still remember January 20, 2009 vividly. The memories of that day still haunt me. It is a major touchstone on which I base many of my other parenting decisions and life experiences. I think it doesn't make my perspective right or wrong. It just makes it different. 

What defines you as a parent (or a person)? 



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