Be the Person Your Kid Can Fall Apart With

At the end of last year, my son underwent a routine surgery.

The night before we went to the hospital he told us how he felt about it- identifying specific emotions.

The day of the surgery, as they prepared him, he continued to express his emotions and I told him, “I can see you’re feeling scared. I understand. It’s okay to feel that way.” And then I reassured him he was safe, that we would be there when he woke up.

As they wheeled him away the anesthesiologist said something that stuck with me;

“Some kids hold it together until their parents leave them because they know they can’t fall apart in front of them. They wait until they are alone with hospital staff and then break down crying. It’s a blessing to have a kid who feels safe enough to fall apart in front of you.”

It was so profound.

I often hear parents talking about how brave their kids are, but bravery may not always be a sign of strength. Bravery is having the courage and the safety to show your emotions, to feel the big feelings. Then we get to be their safe people and validate the reality of what is going on around them. And give them facts– they are safe, these people are here to help you and this is why you need surgery. Yes, I can see you feel scared. I understand. I’ve been scared before too. And I was okay. You will be okay. I’m here with you. Can we do more of that? Not just skip right to everything’s going to be fine.

I took a lot of deep breaths that day and ate too much chocolate. I was scared too and so relieved to hear from the doctor after his surgery on my cell phone, who had just left the OR. Yeah, they just call you right after they’re done operating. It was kind of awesome.

Our kids need us to be safe to fall apart with. If we aren’t then who will be?

♥ Megan