Passing on More Than Genes

August 16, 2016

My 4 year old son broke his arm and fractured his wrist today at daycare. He was making some kind of leap frog motion and landed on his wrist, although he’s adamant that they were playing Star Wars, and told every nurse and doctor. I was glad he spoke up for himself and took control of the situation in his own way. He was brave and stoic in a way that was far beyond his 4 years on this earth. Nurses, doctors, the x-Ray technician, patients and their families took notice of it and remarked to my husband and I how brave he was, and some were visible shocked when learning that he had a broken arm and wrist. At first I was proud and pleased with his reaction to the pain and the situation in general, but as it dragged on for over 5 hours I started to get concerned. That was exactly how I was as a child. Once at a doctors appointment the doctor closed the door, pinching my finger in the hinged side. After a few minutes my mom noticed I was tearing up and they both realised what had happened. Another time I complained of a cold and it turned out I had a collapsed lung. I remember taking great pride in not reacting whenever I got a needle, just like my son does now. Is that sort of bravery part of what causes me to push my body until I collapse? Is that what I’m teaching my young boy to do?

I stopped encouraging his bravery and tried to start nurturing him instead. I stroked his hair, told him made up stories, itched his back, told him it was okay to cry. We were seen by an orthopaedic surgeon. First thing in the morning we’re going back to the hospital to get his arm bone set, which may or may not result in his wrist fully breaking, in which case a temporary pin will be inserted. When we got home we had a pizza supper served on the couch in front of the Television. We decided to give him a dose of Tylenol, not because he was complaining about the pain, but because we wanted to ensure he slept well. As my husband passed him the medication he moved his hand to itch his back and the small plastic cup fell onto the floor, spelling the contents everywhere. My son broke out in tears, the hot streaming kind that accompanies loud wails. After it became clear to me that my husband was more concerned with cleaning up the Tylenol, I got out of bed and scooped up my boy. I held him on my lap, rocking him back and forth telling him over and over that it’s okay to cry. Repeating I love you like his whole emotional maturity depended on knowing how much I loved him. I doubt he knows it, but he wasn’t crying about the dropped medication. He was crying all the tears from all the pain and sadness he hadn’t allowed himself to feel.

He’s sleeping soundly now tucked into his bed with his arm propped up on a network of pillows and blankets. He looks so beautiful and serene. While I often consider how much I hope he grows up healthy and gets his health from his fathers side, I’ve rarely thought about the non-physical legacy we pass to our children. This part we actually have some control over, and I’m still trying desperately to figure it out for myself. I wish I could protect him from the character traits that have both nearly killed me and kept me alive.

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