“You know what’s more important than stuff mom?” Isaac asked
“What baby,” I answered half-heartedly as I zipped between the rows of comforters and pillowcases surrounding us.
“People, mom. People that are like 3 years old.”
“What buddy??” I responded as my feet stopped moving and my eyes paused from glancing over everything.
“3 year-old people like Katie Grace….they are more important than stuff. So can we stop shopping and go home so I can take care of my sister.”
“Your right buddy lets head home.” It was all I could say without tears.
For the second time in a week, I realized I just might be doing something right.
Let me explain.
You see most of the time it feels like Charles and I are walking around a dark room trying to find the dang light switch. Every once in a while we find a flashlight or the moon comes out and sheds some light in the room. Most of the time though, we are just making it up as we go. There is no manual to brain damage and even if there was, each child is so different it could only help so much. How do you raise not only your special needs, medically fragile child but also raise a perfectly healthy one? How do you buffer the pain of it all and not hide reality from them? Yeah, we don’t know either. Except per the conversation above maybe we know more than we think.
The first time I thought I might was doing something right was when we had a parent teacher conference with his Kindergarten teacher last week, and she mentioned that he had been talking to her about his sister. Charles and I were a bit shocked, we very rarely hear of Isaac talking to other people about Katie Grace. Of course we begged her to tell us what he said. She told us, he basically told her that his “sister was probably going to die this year” and “that we got a new machine for her, it won’t heal her but it will help her.” And I was again shocked. His awareness of what is happening blew my mind. He is only 6. How on earth did he get such a good understanding? How was he able to verbalize it so well? He doesn’t mention these things to us!
Many times our conversations look like me stumbling through words to try to figure out how to explain to him what is happening. Or me figuring out how to say it without profusely apologizing for this painful thing that I can’t control. Sometimes it looks like me just smiling through the tears, wondering where the flashlight is so I can figure out how to navigate this dark room. Not often does it include such a mature understanding as he gave his teacher or me that day when we shopped.
As I sat to write this I realized that although in the logical parts of our brains Charles and I have no idea how to do this, our actions are paving the path for Isaac. The minute we invited the only one who conquered suffering into our walk so that we might also be conquerors, we became the best examples for our son. It isn’t the correct words, the deep conversations, or the reasoning that is holding our son during this time, its our example. As parents, we want to be able to fix it, to have the answers so it doesn’t hurt, to be able to explain away pain….to help ease. We can easily spend more time figuring out how to help our children avoid pain…then teach them to deal with it. All of this done with our actions and not our words. When we put on our pretty faces and say everything is fine, when the tension or stress or fear or pain, is so thick it chokes all who are near, we aren’t teaching our children how to deal….we are teaching them to hide. Let’s face these things. Lets speak them out. Lets be honest about them so that they can loosen their hold and not run the day. You need 10 minutes to pitch a fit….take it…..and then move on. Don’t divulge every detail but share with your children…..show them how to process the feelings of life and move on. There are so many times I have looked at Isaac and just told him my heart is sad today. I am talking to Jesus about it because it will help my heart but today is a rough day. The tears didn’t stop right away but through them I smiled. I had sad feelings, which led to a little bit of a rough day, but I stilled smiled, I still loved, I still talked to Jesus, and that is what Isaac saw.
One day he will be the parent who feels like he is walking in a dark room trying to find the dang light switch. My hope is that he will already have the knowledge that it isn’t always about finding the switch but about finding the light. In finding the light we realize….we just might be doing something right.