Today my wee Zoë is having follow-up surgery on her arm. She smashed the bone just under her elbow in June and had plates and screws installed. I wrote a post during her first operation – I’ll admit, it was partly to distract myself from pacing the corridors and going out of my mind.
This time around, she’s getting the metal work out. And just like last time, we’ve been pushed down the theatre list because higher priority cases came up.
Just like last time, Zoë has spent all day without eating or drinking.
But this time, I am able to be with her. And now, as she’s being operated on and I’m sitting on my own in the ward, I’ve found myself thinking, ‘what have I learned from the last time?’
Back in June, as she was being operated on and I was crying my eyes out in the carpark, I realised that resilience has very little to do with how you feel, but everything to do with how you respond.
This time round, I feel just as tense, just as helpless, and just as emotional. And yet I’m more at peace that this is simply a natural way to feel as a parent. How I choose to respond is much more important than my emotions. So this is what I’ve tried to do this time around.
1. Go with the flow
If there’s one thing the last few months of this pandemic have taught us, it’s that things change all the time; often unpredictably, and not in the direction we’d like.
What in the world can we do? The only thing we can do. Go with the flow.
Back in June, I became so frustrated that the timescales kept shifting and the plans kept changing. But this time, I chose to let reality be reality, accept it and look at the big picture. We are not the only priority for the medics caring for us, and they are doing it beautifully. So we just make the best of it; and that’s what we’ve been doing today:
⁃ Playing tic tac toe
⁃ Practicing writing our letters
⁃ Colouring in countless mermaids
⁃ Working through an activity book
⁃ Enjoying some crafts
⁃ Drawing pictures for the nurses
⁃ Playing memory games
⁃ Practising some rhyming flash cards
⁃ Modelling putty
⁃ Listening to music
⁃ Watching programmes
Each time Zoë asked, ‘When am I going for my operation?’ I responded as brightly as I could, ‘Hopefully soon!’ – and changed activity.
When things keep shifting, go with the flow.
2. Look for the gold
Let’s not forget that the purest gold is forged in furnace temperatures. When we are feeling the heat in life, the opportunity is presented for golden qualities to rise to the surface.
Now that’s she’s in theatre, I’ve realised that what has made me so happy inside today is how Zoë seemed completely unperturbed by the situation she found herself in. She smiled and made polite conversation with everyone, and was just a ‘delight,’ according to the anaesthetist’s assessment.
I’m realising again just how proud I am of my daughter and the joy and fun she brings to others’ worlds. I’ve also admired her maturity today about not being able to eat, as well as having to wait so long.
I’m sure many parents whose children are in hospital regularly find themselves feeling this immense pride over and over again- delight at the strength and beautiful characteristics that come out of them in those moments. It doesn’t mean they don’t have their sad, emotional, and even angry moments. But it does mean that the gold shines through them – even, and sometimes especially- in hard times.
In challenging times, look for the gold shining through in the people around you.
3. Take time to dance
As the op was put back yet another hour today, wee Zoë started to flag. By now, she was super tired, and ravenously hungry.
Then I had a eureka moment.
It was time to dance.
I put on ‘The Nutcracker’ and her eyes lit up. She did a beautifully wholehearted (if slightly staggery) performance, and then (somewhat out of character), I jumped up and joined her of my own volition.
It was a good job the door of our side room was closed, because me doing ballet is not the most graceful sight to behold. Between the two of us there were more clumpy feet and disjointed timings than there were pointed toes and synchronisation. But as we swayed and she giggled, I thanked God once more for the beautiful relationship we have.
There’s days when we just gotta take time to dance (no matter how bad we are at it.) In fact, the hard days are the best days for it. For a split second, I forgot that we were in a hospital ward, and it was just me and my girl, painting our own beautiful moment in time.
I’ve just heard the wee pet is in recovery. And at the same time as remembering what it’s like to breathe deeply again… Here’s what I’m going to try to remember next time I’m in a situation anything like this:
…Go with the flow
…Look for the gold, and
…Take time to dance!
Are you facing a situation at the moment that you could affectionately name an ‘operation in resilience’? Have you been here before? If so, what lessons can you apply to right now?