It’s normal for children to have boundaries. Don’t touch the stove; be careful going down the stairs; look both ways before crossing the street; chew with your mouth closed; pick up your shoes and take them to your room.
But, in our house, our children have to abide by an extra set of rules. No loud sounds in the morning, until my medicine kicks in. Hold my right hand, because I can’t feel the left. Don’t scream in my ears. And, don’t ever, ever, ever hit mommy in the head.
Part of me is grateful that my 5 year old knows what to do if there is an “emergency.” Another part of me feels like his childhood is being robbed from him.
Then, last week, something happened that completely changed my perspective.
I went to the grocery store alone (a rare occurrence). I was bagging ears of corn when a 5 year old boy that I’d never met before came right up next to me and struggled to reach the bags. Just like I would help my own son, I pulled the bag down for him, and held it so he could load 6 ears of corn into it. He smiled, and thanked me “so much.”
Then I turned around and watched him walk back toward a woman who was holding a walking stick; she was blind, and holding the hand of a small boy who looked to be about 2 years old. They had a red wagon full of groceries.
After he placed the heavy bag of corn into the wagon, I watched as his mom whispered another order to him, and off he went, to the leafy lettuce.
There are so many parallels here. Most obviously, the boys; they were the same ages as my own. I also felt connected to the mom; grocery shopping with 2 boys is hard. Doing it with a disability is even harder!
Without hesitation, I pushed my cart to the side of the aisle, and walked over to the boy. “What else do you need? Can I help you find something?”
He smiled so widely, and said he was trying to find kale. I asked his mom if she wanted organic, and then helped them check every other item off their list; spinach, cantaloupe, raisins, carrots.
When we finished, I said “it’s so nice of you to help your mom!” He shrugged nonchalantly, waved goodbye, and began to guide his mom toward the check out aisle.
I watched them walk away, and couldn’t keep the tears from pouring down my face.
Through that little boy’s eyes, nothing out of the ordinary happened at the grocery store. And, while I’ve been struggling with the harsh reality my kids are facing, they likely don’t think it’s out of the ordinary to be cautious of hitting my head, or play quietly when my head hurts.
I still hate that my children have seen their mom having seizures, taken away by ambulance, and in a hospital bed. But, they’ve also seen me overcome.
They’ve seen how their daddy stepped up to take care of us when mommy couldn’t, and how family comes together in times of need. They met the doctors who cared for me, and saw how important it is to take care of our bodies. They’ve seen what unconditional love looks like. They saw healing, and they learned compassion.
Everyone needs help every once in a while, and everyone faces challenges. The sooner we teach our children that, the better.
This is our story, and it is not over yet.