I’ve had a few expecting fathers ask me what I thought was the hardest part during delivery. Depending on the time of day or my mood, my answer can vary, but I think the answer I give most is watching my son get his shots. He had just stopped crying and whimpering from labor and then BAM they stuck him with three needles. The first needle he took like a champ. He whimpered a little then shook it off. The second shot didn’t go as well. He’d had enough pain in one day. My son squealed bloody murder after the second shot and by the third one he went into a silent cry. The kind of cry where he just didn’t care expressing his pain anymore, he just wanted it to stop. I held it together, but I could feel his pain. I’ve had shots too. We all have.
It wasn’t so much his pain that got to me, I could tell he had no clue what was going on and that’s what was hard to bare. He didn’t know why he was hurting. In his mind, there was no reason for his pain. He didn’t understand the point of the shots. The benefit of the vaccinations wouldn’t be felt or seen any time soon, if ever. There was only hurt and pain.
To relate I put myself in his shoes, er… booties.
Hello, world I am here. Rough entry, but that’s OK I was tired of the fetal position. I see that you guys have me under a nice, warm lamp. Considerate of you. Climate control in the womb was set at a constant 98 degrees. Seems like you guys have thought of everything to keep me comfy here. Life is good. I like Earth. Mom and Dad aren’t too shabby either. Nurses are nice, even if they wear those funny masks and scrubs. At least they have those shiny toys that are pretty to look at. Oh sweet, they are going to let me play with them. This place rocks. Wait, I can’t reach them. Bring them to my hands, not my legs. What are you doing?!? Are you going to stab me with those shiny toys?
Oh man! I hate toys. I don’t want to play anymore. Is this playing? I hate playing too!
No more playing!
Womb… Take me back to the womb. Earth is a terrible place.
Perhaps it wasn’t quite as dramatic, but I know Owen wasn’t happy. The bad news is that witnessing your child’s pain only gets harder as they get older. I took Owen to get his 3rd round of shots this past month. He woke up happier than normal that morning, cooing and laughing; clueless of the impending doom that waited for him in two hours. Throughout the ride to the doctor’s office he giggled and talked to himself. I could see it in his face. Life was good. I brought him in and the nurse took him and weighed him. Her hands were cold, but he didn’t mind. Life was good. Who cares about cold hands? The doctor came and went, everything checked out fine. Of course it did. Life is great, why wouldn’t everything be fine? The nice nurse with the cold hands came back, this time with a tray covered with shiny toys. He didn’t remember. The nurse gave me instructions to hold him down while she prepped her tray. The little guy looked up to me as I held him down and gave me the biggest smile. The kind that said, “You are the best dad ever. I am so glad to have you, because you would never let anything bad happen to me.” I could feel my stomach tying itself into knots. My grip around his little arms tightened as I braced him, (and myself) for impact. His smile instantly flipped around. I held him in place as the now wicked, mean, old nurse with cold hands drove two more needles into his legs. Life wasn’t as great anymore. He recovered quickly from the pain and stopped crying, but there was no more cooing and giggling that day. Life had betrayed him. Life had hurt his feelings. Although there was a purpose for the shots and pain, he didn’t know it.
Now I am an advocate for shots, and I am grateful for the cold-handed nurses in this world who have the heart, or lack of, to administer vaccines. Again, that last visit was probably more dramatic for me than my son, but I know Owen wasn’t happy. The bad news is that it continues to get harder as they get older. Of course, it won’t always be shots. It will be bike wrecks, scrapped knees, mean siblings who won’t share, then it will move onto hurt feelings, fights, accidents, bad grades, then as they grow older it will be bad dates, lost championships, and then on to more powerful emotions like grief, loss and loneliness.
What’s the parent’s role in all of this? Same as before. Hold them down. Brace for impact and continuing staring them in the eyes as you endure their pain alongside them. At first they won’t have a clue. The pain would be pointless. They won’t know why they hurt, but if you stay beside them during the hurt, they will listen to you as you do your best to explain. Our children will be much more receptive to our wisdom if we first endure the pain with them. It’s a question I’ve had in mind this past week. Am I avoiding my son’s pain, no matter how trivial it may seem to me, for my own comfort? I’m not talking about parenting techniques like let them cry or not. I am talking about my state of mind and heart. I better get the practice in now while our worst days are checkups at the doctor’s office. A day is coming where I will have to listen and bare my son’s screams for a missing toy. Will I be able to relate to his pain and meet him where he is and then use that moment to teach him about missing toys? I could tell him to stop crying and get over it, or I can hold and hug him as he cries and then explain to him how he can move past the missing toy. I realize it’s not always that easy, but that’s the type of relationship I believe we need to build with our children. Enduring pain with our children is building a foundation to teach. It shows that you really do understand and care.
Sounds a lot like our relationship with God, huh? I know many are hurting. Life can get unfair and at times downright painful. Those are the times we need to listen to the voice that is holding us in place, bracing us for impact. I forget that he has first hand experience with the hurts of this world. It’s part of growing up and we can’t forget as parents that we are still growing alongside our children.
Don’t be afraid of pain. Endure yours and your children’s and share it with God. He’s a pretty good parent too.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy your weekend and God bless.