A Hardened Crew

December 28, 2013 by  
Filed under On Life and Living

A hardened crew Study after study shows that children are happier and healthier when they grow up in an environment of stability and support.

When one parent is missing or handicapped, the other must take on traditional roles for which they may or may not be suited.  In our house, mom’s limited mobility and strength account for this change in family dynamic.

The other day, our three year old fell and hurt herself in the other room.  If it had been really serious, everything would have been quiet for a few terrifying seconds.  The girls would have been in shock and Charlotte (the three year old) would have produced an ear piercing scream.  This fall was followed by regular crying, so we did what most parents would do.  We waited for her to come to us.

Upon entering the room, she quickly surveyed the scene and found mom and dad on opposite couches.  Mom looked concerned but didn’t think fast enough to lean out and open her arms.  I mirrored this behavior for a second as Charlotte made the snap decision of which couch to approach.

In a normal family, 100 out of 100 children would have scanned the room for mommy and ran to her without slowing down.  In this case, Charlotte considered her options and then ran to the parent who could pick her up and hug her immediately.  She ran to dad.

Little moments like this happen on a daily basis.  For Charlotte, the reality of a handicapped mother is the only one she knows.  Our two other daughters know this reality but also know their mom as the caring and capable woman she was before.


Resiliency in the Midst of Reality

Children are incredibly resilient.  Ours have adjusted to the reality of mom’s diminished role.  They have accepted ownership of many things mom used to do.  They clean their own rooms, do their own laundry, and manage a lot of their own playtime and social lives.  They are able to prepare and feed themselves snacks and even the occasional stovetop meal.

There are still disagreements.  Still times when problems are resolved with a screaming match and then a race to dad to argue their case.  But when the chips are down, these three young girls accept that they need to band together to help the family move forward.


A Hardened Crew

There is no way to be sure how a child would act in a crisis.  One can explain what to do and even practice a plan to deal with an emergency.  But in the heat of the moment it is impossible to predict what kinds of decisions a child will make under duress.

Our family recently had the unfortunate experience of their mother being removed from the house and put into an ambulance.  The kids were woken up by dad yelling and attempting to wake her.  She was severely dehydrated and barely conscious as she lay on the bed.  From a child’s point of view, mom looked really bad.  The paramedics who rushed into the house confirmed that this was a serious situation.

They were instructed that things are serious but now mom is receiving medical care.  Their orders were to ready themselves to go to the hospital and to bring whatever they need in order to stay there for many hours.

Elise and Abigail (ages 11 and 8) got dressed and then proceeded to help their little sister.  There were no questions or emotional uncertainty.  They moved like a little platoon preparing for an all-day mission.  Once everyone was dressed, backpacks were loaded with entertainment, food, and drink.  The car warmed up as the kids got themselves buckled in.

All of this happened as dad and the paramedics attended to mom.  There was no direction as far as what to take or how much to pack.  Despite their young age, the kids understood the expectation of readying themselves.


To the Hospital

As the ambulance departed, I gathered Jess’ medical information and supplies.  Upon entering the car, I ensured the kids had packed everything we needed for an extended stay in the hospital waiting room.  Turns out they had packed more for themselves than I would have suggested.  Their backpacks contained enough food for a whole day.  They brought books and even the chargers for the electronics.

We arrived at the hospital at about 3 am on a school night.  My kids are mature for their age, but I understood that the situation required me to be in and out of the E.R.  That meant there would be times the three of them were left in the waiting room without a parent.

I personally hoped that Jessica would be diagnosed and potentially treated in time for me to leave and take them to school.  A night with little sleep and hours in a hospital waiting room can bring out the worst in a child.  As it turns out, Jessica went in for surgery and I was able to deposit the kids at their three respective schools the next morning.  There were no complaints.  They were actually excited to be dropped off late with a note.


A hardened crew - Charlotte with mommySeeing Mom Again

After surgery, mom was placed in the ICU.  The acute recovery required a ventilator and a number of tubes and IV drips.  Jess would require several days of rest before attempting much activity.  Her hands had to be strapped down to prevent her from messing with the vent mouthpiece.  While the kids are capable of a lot, children really aren’t encouraged in intensive care.  My personal rule is not to take them in until the vent is taken off and she begins to look more like herself.

By the second day, Jess’ bloodwork had improved.  Her kidneys were working fine and she was off the vent.  The kids have spent enough time in hospital rooms to know they don’t like it there.  They were encouraged to distract mom with some stories about school and activities, but mostly they were content sitting quietly and reading.

Children are full of so much life.  Their presence is such a contrast to the typical feel of a hospital room.  Jessica will be happy to see girls as often as they can come in.  Not only are they a hardened crew, but they’re also her biggest asset in recovery.

(more about her recovery coming soon)


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