Today, I broke my son’s heart.
I know we all do this from time to time, that it’s unavoidable, but given the choice, I’d rather never do it again.
BG was playing with his medical supplies, as he often does now. He has a segment of an IV tube, and he loves to flush saline or water through it. It has valves and things he can attach, and very cool clamps that are just like the clamps on his tubes. As he was playing, I was doing something of my own, and he commented that the clamp on the play tube and the clamp on his tube were the same. “They’re both blue!” he exclaimed.
I agreed that they were, and then the nag in the back of my head pushed her way through and said, “But just remember that you only play with your play tubes. Only the nurses can handle your tubes.” It was such an off-handed remark, but I looked at him and saw the saddest expression creep over his face. His lip was quivering. He was trying desperately not to cry, and I knew I had just squashed his spirit. I tried to tell him I was sorry, told him that it was so neat the clamps were the same color, told him I knew he wouldn’t mess with his own tubes. He kept trying to fight off his tears, and as I looked right into his eyes that are made of Pacific Ocean, they started to fill and fill and fill until he fell into my arms sobbing. I held him and held him and listened to his sobs, felt his devastation that I hadn’t, for a moment, remember the kind of boy he is.
Of course my son knows not to play with his own tubes. He has been paying such close attention, and while he wants to emulate the nurses, he knows the boundaries. He knows how important it is to stick to his play tubes.
Oh what a cad I am. I feel awful, and it teaches me a valuable lesson that the nag in my mind needs to be silenced more. At the same time, I wonder if this gave him a valuable moment to release some of the pain he has been feeling about being here. Maybe he got to let go a little. I don’t know. I just know that I don’t ever want to do that again.
Even in the hospital, in the middle of a battle with cancer, we face daily parenting struggles: how to get him to eat, how to maintain rules and boundaries, how to offer help when he needs it without coddling or causing regression, and, most of all, how not to trample his spirit in the process. It’s all hard, but sometimes, it’s just the usual hard of parenting a three-year-old.