This past week our eldest needed some blood drawn for the first time. Not sure what to expect with him, I explained why the blood was needed and how they were going to do it. As is typical of him, he asked about several details which I answered to the best of my knowledge.
We sat for a long time in the waiting room, and when it was finally his turn he got a look in his eyes, the one where he looks like a deer caught in headlights, panic just under the surface. I calmly took his hand and talked him through the whole procedure.
Afterwards I bought him a sympathy muffin at Tim’s and took him back to school. As he exited the van and walked inside, I realized that I had gotten through the procedure without one stray flicker of dramatic emotion.
What a long way we’ve come from the awful time that our littlest one had in the hospital last year as a newborn. They’d had to poke him every two days for blood and again every time he blew an IV. Even though he rarely fussed about it, I hated it so much I had to leave the room each time. Seeing him being poked like that made me feel sick, a visceral punch to the gut that made me want to throw myself over him to protect him from those necessary procedures. I would anxiously wait in the hall, and then dash back in, pick him up and cradle him for hours in my arms.
But this week with Mr. Twelve Year Old, I didn’t feel that at all. Not an inkling.
The difference in feelings has nothing to do with how much I love them–my kids are all amazing and special and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I love each of them for who they are.
Thinking about it, our little guy was a newborn, helpless to speak to us and suffering from a very deadly infection. Add a hospital setting and I was way beyond my comfort zone. Of course my instinct was to throw myself over him to protect him at all costs. My older guy though is rather like me in that it’s hard to get him to stop talking. He is capable of telling us when it’s too much and he wasn’t at risk. Almost a teen, it’s my job to point him in the right direction, hold his hand if he needs it, and let him experience life without me throwing myself bodily in the way.
While I know there will be other things to come that are emotional red flags, I’ve realized that as they grow up, the pain will be more about nostalgia than a need to protect. It will diminish as they grow.
For now, I can comfort myself in knowing that I can parent without panic or pain, and all my kids know is love.