Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What My Son and I Have in Common (Besides the Obvious)

"When you were a kid, did you go to the sibling play room?" 

"No." I tell my son as we sit in the hospital cafeteria eating lunch. I had just picked him up from the playroom after I left his sister's ICU room. 

"I never had a reason to visit the hospital when I was a child," I continue. 

"You never saw your brother in the hospital?" 

And that's the moment I knew that my son and I were different yet the same. 

My son's upbringing has been strangely unique. He has grown up watching his sister take medications, wear oxygen from time to time, and have various interventions at home. Elijah has visited his sister, Jaycee, in the hospital several times a year since he was a toddler. It is the only life he's known, and it's hard for him to understand a life different than his.

Elijah visiting Jaycee in the hospital a few years ago.
"You do realize that most people don't visit their brothers or sisters in the hospital, right?"

Elijah sat perplexed for a moment. "Why not?" 

"Most kids aren't sick like your sister," I try to explain. "My brother was never in the hospital as a kid, so I never needed to visit him."

He still sat puzzled.

"Most kids you know have probably never had their brother or sister in the hospital. Most kids don't have a sibling like your sister. She was born with really crummy lungs and illnesses are really hard on her," I went on to explain.

He seemed satisfied with that response, but I knew that he couldn't really wrap his mind around what I was saying. This has been his life for all of his life. He's become acquainted with things most children never encounter.

Similarly, my life as a mother has had only this reality as well. I have trouble comprehending the lives of other moms. I only know what I know: hospital admissions, surgeries, specialty appointments, and health scares with my daughter. I have no idea how to relate to moms discussing sports for their children or typical childhood events. My motherhood experience has not followed the norm; neither has my son's childhood.

In this, my son and I have something in common. Our lives are shaped by our experiences with Jaycee. He finds it hard to imagine a life with a healthy sibling. I find it hard to imagine a life with two healthy children. I see him having a hard time relating to other children his age. I have a difficult time relating to moms of children without special or medical needs. We both have lives that few people can relate to, and it's made us both a bit quiet in large groups.

Still, I see another commonality. We both get anxious in our own ways when we see Jaycee coming down with a cold virus.

"She won't need to go to the hospital, will she?" Elijah asks this question hoping to have his mind eased.

"She's fine right now. I'll keep watching her," I say to him. I know better than to give him false assurances and make promises about a situation I can't control.

With my husband away at work, the two of us wait the illness out hoping to treat it at home. He watches me dose out medicines and run machines. He asks me about her numbers, and I try to be calm when things aren't going well. I can see the worry in his little face at times; I know it must be on mine too. Yet, we both find a way to keep going. When it all finally settles down and Jaycee is healthy again, my son and I have something else in common.

We know how to appreciate those good times. We are grateful for the chance to go play outside, keep plans we actually make, and leave the house when Jaycee's breathing is back to normal. We know how to enjoy simple things, and the value of health. He appreciates that even at his young age.

My son and I will carry on. We will try our best to relate to other people who don't experience what we do. We know that we understand a piece of each other that no one else will, and in some ways, that makes it a little easier. 

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