Their pain is our pain

Monday, October 11, 2010
Who ever coined the following phrase must not have had children, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."

Seriously. Not words that will ever fall from the lips of a parent.

I had the unfortunate opportunity to realize this. And let me tell you, it is heartbreaking.

Before I go into my tirade (to which I am fully entitled), let me back up a few years. We are turning the clock back about 4 years. Harper was 3 months old and at a routine well-visit. Her pediatrician was looking at her strangely. Cocking her head and observing her, the pediatrician tells us that she suspects our darling daughter has torticollis. Excuse me? I didn't think anything was wrong with our daughter. She's perfect, right? Or so we thought.

Before the pediatrician explains what torticollis is (and you can read all about it here), she begins by telling us that kids can be any age. Kids have a knack for mocking other children. They are quite skilled at it actually. You don't want your child to be a target. I'm feeling faint at this point, but I am understanding her general point. I get it. I don't want my child to be made a mockery of.

We get Harper the help she needs. She endures 3 months of physical therapy once a week and exercises in between her visits. It's grueling for both me and her, but I know it has to be done.

Fast forward a few years to last winter when this happened. We swiftly addressed it with the pediatrician who referred Harper to an ENT. Two weeks later, Harper had tubes put in her ears and her tongue clipped because she was tongue tied. Within a month, both her speech and hearing had improved dramatically. However, her speech wasn't perfect. She was still struggling with certain phonetic sounds months after the surgery. We thought it was indicative of her age.

Two weeks ago, while I was dropping Emma off at a weekly religious education class, Harper ran into the playroom at our church to briefly play while I signed a few forms. While she was playing, she was making friends and chatting with some of the other children in the playroom. She abruptly ran out of the room and clung to my leg. I could see her eyes welling up with tears. My heart was breaking for her, and I didn't know the full extent of what transpired in the playroom.

When we got into the car, the flood gates opened. As she cried, Harper told me how a little boy told her that "she didn't have a good voice." He said he couldn't understand what she was saying and that she shouldn't talk to him because of that.

Her pain immediately became my pain. I wanted to cry with her. I wanted to cry for her. I wanted to scoop her up, hold her in my arms forever and make everything better. The pain that we feel for our children is worse than our own at times. It's unbearable.

What is worse is that the week following, I was a volunteer hall monitor. I encouraged Harper to go into the playroom for the hour that I had to sit and watch any children wandering into the hallway as they made their way to the restrooms. She wouldn't budge. Not an inch. She was fearful that the same little boy would be in the playroom, ready and waiting for her. No child should be paranoid at age 4.

Of course, I know that this little boy wasn't intentionally mocking Harper. He was too young to know how to do so. Children his age are brutally honest. They say what they feel. They don't filter anything. That, precisely, makes the situation worse. He wasn't feeling intimidated or threatened which often leads to mocking and bullying. He was just being an honest kid.

I know that I can't protect my children from disappointment. It's not realistic nor is it possible. They will encounter plenty of it in their lifetimes, and it will be good for them. It will help them grow, shape them, and most importantly, show them how to rebound from it. But it will never become easier for me to sit back and watch it happen. Whether they are 4 or 54, their disappointment will always be my disappointment.


Anonymous said...

That just breaks my heart. I have tears in my eyes for you and your little girl.
There is really nothing harder for a parent to endure than to see their child hurting - whether physically or emotionally.
I send a big hug to Harper and wish you strength.

Jessica Warrick said...

that's so sad im so sorry that she had to go through that. sometimes kids don't think before they speak.