When you are a parent, you are filled with things you want to do for your child. Some of those are simple, inconsequential things like being able to buy them toys every now and then or perhaps buy your daughter that pretty dress in the catalogue. Some of the things you want to do for them are things that leave them with cherished memories – like teaching them how to ride a bike, or taking them on summer vacations. Then there’s the bigger things that you wish to do as a parent – things like keep them safe from harm, prevent them from getting hurt, being able to take away all their fears. The things that as parents we will inevitably fail to be able to do at some point, try as we might.
As a parent, there is not much worse than seeing your child in pain from, or scared of something, that you do not have the ability to fix. We have had our fair share of those experiences in our daughter’s lifetime. Thankfully for the most part, those times are in the past, and she is a healthy girl today. You would think that after all we have been through with her – dealing with her two heart defects, the months of heart failure and feeding tubes, all the needles and medications and appointments of her first year, that anything else would be a cake walk. But it just doesn’t seem to work that way.
And so tonight I found myself sitting here, trying to write a column while my heart and mind were wandering elsewhere. For tomorrow our daughter will be admitted to the hospital away from home for a procedure aimed at hopefully easing her chronic constipation. She will not be put under, there will be no surgery. She’ll merely have an NG tube inserted into her nose that will feed medication directly into her bowel, which will hopefully help clean her out, so that her bowels can start to heal. It’s really pretty simple compared to other things that we have faced, and compared to what many other families have to face.
And yet – it’s not simple to her. She is five and she is scared. She whimpered at bedtime that she didn’t want to go to the hospital and “get a tube in my nose.” She doesn’t want to have to be away from her home, her toys, her cat or her brother or her daddy. She is afraid it’s going to hurt – and I, knowing that it is indeed going to hurt, have to try and come up with a veiled truth. I refuse to lie to her about this, and yet, I don’t want to say anything that will cause her further anxiety. So I try to dance around it telling her that it might hurt, but that in the end she is going to feel much, much better. She has been living with stomach pain for so long, and she is tired of it. She wants more than anything for her “tummy pains” to go away. So this is what I choose to focus on.
But all the reassuring words and all the snuggles, or even the promise of feeling better, can’t take away her fear, and that as a parent is hard, no matter what you may have faced with your child. Or no matter what others are facing with their child. No parent wants to see their child suffer in pain, or be afraid, period. It is one of the hardest parts of being a parent that nothing can ever truly prepare you for.
And so all we can do is love them and hold them, and let them tell you about their fears. Children need to be allowed to talk about their fears, to express them; I’ve learned that it is often their way of coping, of dealing with them. It not our job to tell them they have nothing to be afraid of, but rather, to listen, and then reassure them that no matter what happens, we will always be by their side to support them. For in the end, that is all we can do, and while it may leave us feeling helpless at times, it is what they need from us the very most.