Thursday, May 22, 2008
Little boy in an overwhelming place
Montreal, QC, May 2008
It's a different world than the one in which I grew up. Kids didn't visit hospital rooms way back when. The rule was pretty simple: Nobody under 12 got to go upstairs. So we'd stay in the lobby and wait. Sometimes the nurses would wink at us and look the other way as our parents "snuck" us upstairs for a quick peek. But it just wasn't part of my reality to see my grandparents in the hospital.
Today, of course, no one bats so much as an eyelash as our kids quietly head upstairs and onto the patient floor. I'm a little torn by the experience: On the one hand, I feel it's important for them to understand what their grandfather is going through, to have tangible images and experiences to go along with what we've been telling them all along. On the other hand, I worry about whether this brings fear into their lives at too young an age, whether this accelerates the erosion of childhood innocence that every parents tries to keep at bay.
Whatever my misgivings are, it's clear that we've decided to make it as concrete as possible for him. And we have faith that he and his siblings are insightful and resilient enough to use it as another growth experience.
On this visit, I happened to have my camera ready as our son, Noah, turned to leave the room and head out. In that instant, I wish I could have seen the thoughts swimming around his head. Up until that moment, he had been playfully bantering, bringing sunshine to a room that clearly needed some. He used his 7-year-old's charm to make his grandfather smile, to show him why it matters that he gets better and goes home. He seemed to ignore the overwhelming mood of this massive institution for his entire visit. He was having fun with his Zaidy. Nothing else mattered.
But then this moment. There's something in his face that suggests deeper thought, almost as if he let the smile go for just long enough to betray what he was really thinking. I wish I had the power to understand it. And to talk to it. I wish I could shepherd him through this confusing time in his life better than I had been shepherded a generation ago.
Your turn: Helping your kids understand this. Please discuss.