By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT
As I was leaving the house this morning, I heard one thing above all else; the sound of my 6.5 year old children’s laughter. And I felt one thing in response.
Here I was walking out the door to go to work and my wife and children are cuddling and laughing upstairs without me. It left me with a knot in my stomach.
What about me? A little voice in my head wondered. What about me?
The ironic aspect of all of this is that I was drained, utterly and completely wiped out (and probably why that little voice sounded louder than it normally would). I had spent much of my Labor Day weekend taking care of my little boy who was terribly ill with what turned out to be a nasty stomach virus. But first we had a scare that it was appendicitis, him writhing in pain with a fever, doubled over crying his little heart out.
I took him to the emergency room on Sunday and we spent four hours waiting between various tests and x-rays to find out that they just weren’t sure, but suspected it wasn’t appendicitis. As you parents know, the challenge of being in that situation is you want to be connected enough to your emotions to be there for your child, to be what he needs you to be, but you also need to be disconnected enough to not get scared and anxious yourself because he will feel that and feel the same way. It is a difficult balance and one that takes quite a bit out of me. Making sure he understood each test that was going to happen without getting him anxious about it. Making sure he had something to do (or a hand to squeeze) when the pain was bad or when he was scared. Trying to help him learn how hospitals and all of the tests work so the experience – and hospitals in general – wouldn’t be scary. For instance, the one thing he kept telling people about that day was that he got his first x-ray! He was real proud of that.
Keeping the balance in check was difficult because there were times when I just looked at him and felt the tears welling up. I was so proud of how he was handling the doctors and nurses, all of the different tests, everything, that every time I tried to tell him how proud I was I started to tear up and had to try to hold my emotions in check so as not to freak him out. My job was to keep him calm – not to get him agitated and overwhelmed.
And maybe that’s why the sound of their laughter felt more painful than joyful. I had just spent three days taking care of my boy at his worst, screaming in pain, doubled over and upset, frustrated and whiny, but my wife got him at his best, laughing and adorable.
I wanted some of that, too. Hopefully, when I get home I will have that chance.