Well, this week’s “HOW of Parenting” topic comes at the perfect time! I’m on day five of having a sick kid with a fever and itchy, ugly hives coming and going every few hours.
I know you can relate. Maybe not to my son’s symptoms, but to mine: worry that he has some horrible disease he’ll never recover from, sadness that he’s so uncomfortable, frustration that I can’t get anything done, and exhaustion that completely skewes my thinking. Basically, if left to my own devices, I would spiral downward quite quickly.
“Really!!! Parenting is hard enough when everything is going well. Is this some kind of a joke. Who thinks I can handle this!!!” I think to myself.
And then, in a brief moment of clarity, I remember that I have the power to turn my situation around.
To put it simply, the key to the door at the end of this dark, dank tunnel of hopelessness is a certain kind of Listening Time with other parents who I trust implicitly.
Thankfully, yesterday morning was a morning I had some of this time on my calendar – yep, just like a business appointment, with a reminder timer and everything.
This was a group call, and I asked to take my Listening Time first, as I needed to get back to my son. All it took was the sound of the five familiar voices on the other end of the line to get the tears flowing. They know my struggles well, and there I could be scared. I knew no one would try to fix my feelings or make them go away, and they wouldn’t tell me that I should rush my son to the doctor. They trusted my judgement, and knew I just needed to cry. “He’s going to live,” they told me, gently. And the tears flowed like a rushing river.
Of course he was going to be fine. It wasn’t about that. But every time one of my children gets sick, I time travel. I’m viscerally thrown back to the loss of one of my best friends at 15 to cancer, to another at 30 from MS, and to the two weeks in Children’s Hospital when my youngest was 10 days old and got RSV (a respiratory nightmare for very young ones), and not one doctor or nurse would tell me he was going to survive.
“I just want to know that he’s going to live,” I would say to them, my voice quivering. They would smile and change the subject.
“I can stay here for year,” I would say. “Really! Just tell me he’s going to survive.”
That unanswered question almost killed me, I think.
Our older boys weren’t allowed on the hospital floor, and I cried about how my husband would stand outside with them on the sidewalk, and I would hold their new brother up to the window for them to see.
When they asked if he was going to get better, I honestly don’t remember what I said. I’m guessing I left that to my husband, who sucks so badly at worrying that with all my work on myself and our parenting, probably deserves most of the credit for our survival as a family thus far.
I thanked my Listeners and hung up, enough fuel in my tank now to make my boy and myself tea and to sit and read a book together without looking at his skin or taking his temperature for probably an hour.
Hey, don’t laugh!
I have a long list of support contacts in my cell phone, and when things get hard, I stop, drop, and text. It’s like a fire drill for parent crises.
The group texts read like this: “Does anyone have 2-10 minutes to exchange Listening Time? I could really use it!”
And the responses roll in. They look like this: “Sorry, kids just got home! I’ll let you know if I find a window. Hugs! (And then a heart emoticon, which I can’t figure out how to insert here…)”
And this: “Oh sooooo wish I could. In the midst of family holiday juggling. I am sending a cyber hug though… (And then an emoticon blowing a kiss my way… Same problem as above with the insertion!)
And this: “After 6:45pm I can!” (It’s noon now.)
Not 100% success this time, in the sense that no one could Listen right that moment. But the act of reaching out reminded me that I was not alone, and the love that came back infused my soul with enough of a taste of the truth – that things are actually ok – to get me through to my scheduled Listening Time that evening with a parent friend clear across the world.
I was able to breathe, place one hand on my heart and one on my belly, and then head back to the couch where my boy lay like a wilted flour, tracking the hives as they mysteriously appeared and disappeared from his hands, feet, elbows, knees, legs, belly, neck, face. (I didn’t tell him about the face part.) I could make weird, spooky noises and move my hands in funny ways, and we could laugh together, shedding our fears and lightening both our loads.
“Are they going to go away?” he asked, his eyes piercing mine.
“Yes, sweetie. I promise. You’re going to be just fine.”
And in that moment, I could really feel the truth in that statement.
Later that night, on Skype with another dear parent, I cried hard about the joy of my sons’ births, the tears that my husband shed when our first child was born, and how, as he held the phone in his hand and tried to share the news with his mother across oceans, he couldn’t get a word out through his emotions. I saw him shaking, overwhelmed with joy and wonder, but heard only her voice asking over and over again, “So! So!”. I cried about all the ups and downs of this parenting journey we’ve taken together. The joys, the losses, the highs, the lows.
And then I took another deep breath, noticed the beautiful trees outside my window, and the huge whiteboard on my wall, overflowing with all the ideas that are so numerous I can’t keep them in my head. Books to read. Videos to record. Programs to create. People to interview. Topics for pieces I want to write and share with you all.
Life really is good. It just takes an army of support to remember it sometimes.
I’m so grateful for mine, and for the opportunity to help you build yours.
To good health and great support!
Thoughts? Feelings? Please share in the “comments” section below. Together we will get through it all…And thrive!