IT’S NEVER the events or what happens to you but what you make it all mean that affects you most. This came home to roost like a shedload of chickens this month.
My fiancé and I had spent numerous evenings debating how and when to tell Tilly, my six and a half year old stepdaughter-to-be, about my open-heart surgery. There never seemed to be the right time or the right words, and I was determined that she would hear it direct from us, and in a way that brought her comfort, not anxiety.
Intuition told me to keep it simple, stick to the facts, and be more open to answering questions than delivering information. In other words, be responsible and be led by her.
Tilly and I have taken to writing together; it’s a lovely addition to her yoga time with us (though we know her favourite part is the blanket snuggling in savasana). I had considered writing a short story about hospitals with her, but divine intervention beat me to it.
Tilly is in Rainbows (precursor to Brownies and Guides), and eager to accumulate her badges.
She came bursting through the door from Rainbows squealing ‘Sophiaaaaaaaaaa, look what I got!!!’
It was a badge for kindness, and it needed to be stitched to her little uniform.
We sat down together to sew her badge on and I explained that this badge was a bit like a patch that special doctors would use to make my heart even work better (except my patch won’t say Well Done) After a brief explanation of why I am having an operation and what it will mean for us going forward her questions included:
- How will they get to your heart because it’s on the inside of your body?
- Will the operation hurt you?
- How many stitches will you have? Because Fraser (school friend) had 18.
- How many days will you have to be in hospital?
- Is that hospital far away – because I don’t want you to be far away?
- Can we still have lots of cuddles? (came with dramatic hug and cute noises when I said only very gentle ones)
- Will you still be able to read me stories and play with me?
- Will I still get to come and stay with you and daddy like normal?
And so there we have it.
Tilly’s beautiful little world is not full of fear and pondering and anxiety. Her mind did not yet LEAP to make catastrophe out of everyday situations and procedures. It did not clump memory after memory together and decide that the past will equal the future. IT JUST IS as it is. She sees what is presented in front of her right now: an operation to turbocharge me, during which she will be looked after with the same amount of love, time and interaction.
Think about a challenge in your life right now.
How would the six year old you see it?
How might any six year old child see it?
What are the facts?
What does the event or situation mean?
What are YOU MAKING it mean with your adult mind (and ego)?
How can you simplify this and make it easier to manage and overcome? When will you do that?
Life – innocently beautiful when we accept the truth as it is.
NOTE: On March 29th 2017 I had successful open heart surgery (sternotomy) to close the 3.5cm hole in my heart that I was born with but knew nothing about. When Tilly saw the five inch scar on week one she asked me to cover it up again because she didn’t like it. On week two she asked to see it and told me ‘oh good, now it’s not creepy and dark any more. It’s pink: pink is my favourite colour.’