My 9 and a half year old daughter had partial braces put on two days ago. They’re on her top front 4 teeth and then one in the back on each side to hold the wire in place. As someone that had braces for 6 years, I sympathize with her pain. I knew they’d be sore for a few days – she’s been eating soup for every meal! 😉
Last night at dance class it was parent watch week – we get to watch the last few minutes of class one week a month. My daughter is a competitive dancer and she LOVES it. It’s her “thing” – she was born for this. She would do it more if I’d let her. Usually I watch her give full effort every single time – in fact in December while at a dance convention for a weekend the staff gave her an award for giving her absolute full effort in every class of the weekend (which was two days of about 8 hours of dance each day). When I watched her last night she just didn’t seem like “her” – she was going through the motions without putting her usual effort into it. I didn’t see the joy and pride in her that I usually see when I watch her class or rehearsal.
On the way home we were talking about how I could tell she wasn’t feeling good and asked if it was just her teeth hurting or if she didn’t feel well for some other reason (the time of year for crud to go around and all). She said it was just her teeth.
After being quiet for a minute she said “These last two days I’ve been really tired.” I nodded my head and said “yes, when you have a constant pain like that it’s really does make you tired – it takes a lot out of you.” She said “yep, that’s it – my body is put energy into the pain and I just don’t have a lot left for other stuff.”
First of all, I love how astute my 9 year old is – this is not the first time she’s awed me with her ability to verbalize her ability to put together ideas and analyze them like this…she’s been doing it since she was very young.
Second, I took this as a moment to reach out to her about what I deal with. I didn’t want to make her feel like her experience wasn’t as important as mine – I didn’t want to be the one that always says “oh, yeah, well you should feel what I feel” when someone discusses their struggles – I hate the “one-up-man-ship” that can happen in moments like that. But I didn’t want to connect with her. I did want to talk with her a little about my health struggles as they absolutely affect her.
I said “That’s why I’m tired a lot, too. Your teeth pain and dealing with it has made you tired – I have pain all the time and dealing with it all the time makes me tired a lot.”
She said “but yours isn’t in your mouth!”
I replied “no, you’re right – that is a miserable place to have pain – it really gets in the way of eating, drinking, talking, smiling and a lot of things. I have pain in my hands and my legs – think about how many times we use our hands in a day.”
She said “oh, you’re right – I bet that would take a lot of energy out of you.”
By then we were home. She and I had some soup, I helped her with her homework and she took a long, hot shower before asking me for some Advil and my snuggling with her as I tucked her in.
I don’t want my kids to be focused on my health issues – I want them to be impacted as little as possible. I’ve talked about this struggle of “how much do I tell them” and my guilt of not being able to be the best parent I could be to them because of all I’m dealing with. I want them to be carefree children as much as possible.
But I always want them to be caring, compassionate, empathetic people. They already are – they are kind and loving and caring young people and I want to nurture that and support it as they grow into big people. I’m glad I took that moment to open up a little bit to her – it was a chance to take something that she was feeling right then and that would allow her to understand a part of what I feel. It was a natural moment in our live together to give her a little glimpse of understanding. I hope it will help her to continue to be such a compassionate and empathetic person – and I hope it will help her understand why her mom was often tired when she looks back on her childhood some day!