When our babies are born we hope for perfection. This included 10 little fingers and 10 little toes. What we don't account for are the unforeseeable bumps, 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's present and protect him from the future. I want to save his innocents 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 what do we protect them from? Are we doing more harm than good from keeping them overly protected? Or do we teach them resilience by letting them fall down and simply being there to help them to get 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.
This week, Braden 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 afraid. I was afraid because I didn't want Braden to feel pain, be scared, to have worries, to be "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. That I, in some way, failed him. That I didn't protect him and caused him, or allowed him to feel pain.
Of course, Braden will 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, after all, fair 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, children in 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.