My son is four. He is almost always happy and has the most infectious laugh. He loves to laugh, too. He’s affectionate and easily expresses his feelings; especially his love for me. For the past few nights he has not been himself. It’s like a switch right around bedtime – suddenly out of sorts, cranky, downright confrontational. To call bedtime a struggle would be an understatement. He doesn’t want to sleep because, “sleep is boring!” He won’t stay in his bed or room, engages in a standoff with me in the hallway, crying when I walk away. I know behavior, I know best practice and I applied all strategies. I offered hugs and love neither of which he wanted. I tried to ignore the behavior which only led to him attempting hand stands in the dark almost taking down my table lamp. He wanted mommy, then daddy, then mommy, then daddy, ad nauseam….
This afternoon Brian suggested we bring him to the doctor to maybe check his ears. I’m usually not that quick to make an appointment especially when there is really no sign of anything being wrong with him. But, we have had a long history of ear issues and he is known to have ear infections without typical symptoms. So with no hesitation I opened the app on my phone and took the last available appointment. Who in the world makes and appointment for 4:50pm on a rainy Thursday for a reasonably healthy child? Me.
She looks in his ears. Fine. She checks his throat. Fine. Tummy is great, too. She asks him some questions about what’s been going on at night and if he’s possibly sad, angry maybe, scared, or even just really, really tired. Of course his answer to all of her questions is ‘no.’ He’s super! I shift uncomfortably in my chair because I’m starting to feel embarrassed for taking up our doctor’s time.
This makes zero sense for me being here.
My throat tightens.My eyes start to burn.
She looks directly at me and asks, “How are you?”
Tears begin to stream down my face. She casually, yet swiftly ushers my son out the door and has him join the nurses to look through stickers and have a sucker.
The truth is I’m not ok. On May 12th during my annual exam my gynecologist found a lump in my neck. On May 18th I had an ultra sound. On May 20th I found out I have a large, dominant, solid mass in my thyroid. On June 1st I had my first appointment with my endocrinologist. On June 9th I will have a biopsy.
My words and tears fell freely as she listened. She offered me tissues and asked good questions. She gave me advice, both as a doctor and a mother. I felt overwhelming guilt; realizing instantly that William was responding to my current state of stress and anxiety. Of course I try to hide it but either I’m a horrible liar or my kid is highly intuitive. I’m fairly sure it’s both. She reminded me not to take on unnecessary guilt. She reassured me that no matter the outcome, I will be ok. William will be ok. We all will be ok. It was like a good, honest conversation with a friend that I desperately needed, only with a $25 co-pay.
It’s no surprise he’s affected. My current state is fragile. Sometimes tense. Often preoccupied. Worry. Lots and lots of worry. I worry for them, though, not really for me. I am perfectly content with the idea of removing any body part that may be plotting harm. If my thyroid is trying to kill me, take the fucker out. Besides, you haven’t been doing a great job of keeping my hair smooth lately so you can suck it on the way out. But for them, for a million different reasons, my heart aches for them.
I’m working on it. I pray often. I try to keep busy. I adopt huge ass pianos. Which, by the way, turned out to be a terrific decision for our family. I stare obsessively at my kids which freaks them out and that make me laugh.
I’m human and far from perfect and admittedly I see that while my kids don’t know any of the specifics, this is all affecting them in unexpected ways. They are resilient and I pray that this time in our lives will soon be a distant memory that only I remember.
For now, I focus on gratitude. I’m thankful for my family, friends, and faith. I’m thankful for my husband. He is more than I could ever ask for or imagine in a partner. Today especially, I’m thankful for being 41 with a really great pediatrician.