It’s become a ritual that when Kyle travels for work, Kellen gets a Wendy’s happy meal for dinner on the first night. In that tradition, Tuesday the two boys and I took the detour home so we could stop at Wendy’s. We talked about Kellen’s day and then out of the blue he said to me, “Is Owen feeling alright, or is he sick, Mommy?” I replied that he’s feeling alright and then Kellen said, “I don’t want him to go back to the hospital. It makes me sad. I miss you guys and Daddy picks me up from school. I like it when you pick me up from school”
That’s a very enlightening statement from a three-year-old. For one thing, I finally understand why Kellen absolutely flips out when Kyle picks him up from school. I always assumed it was because he likes routine. Having it associated with Owen being in the hospital never crossed my mind. What was really enlightening was to hear Kellen articulate that the stress that I feel every time I see Owen’s breathing start to change or I hear a cough that’s even slightly wet – my three year old feels that stress too. We don’t have the same triggers, but we have the same stress. And at three, to be able to so precisely communicate those feelings means he’s spent quite a bit of time thinking about them
Obviously this wasn’t the first time in the last 13 months that I knew Kellen had feelings and was being impacted by what was happening to our family. At school and at home we saw behavior changes and we have always been so thankful to the wonderful teachers at St. David’s who have helped Kellen feel love and consistency through a time when his home life was so unpredictable. At home we also work hard to give him routine. We always eat dinner together, whether it’s at home or the hospital and we’ve done our best to give most of Kellen’s care ourselves because it came clear that he didn’t like it when we’d have him stay with other people too often. Between home and school and natural development, Kellen’s really blossomed from a toddler to a smart and well adjusted little boy over this last year. But, I still can’t help but wonder; am I doing as good of a job meeting the emotional needs of Kellen as I am the physical needs of Owen?
I know I can’t protect Kellen from pain and worry his whole life. But he’s three. He has real, legitimate worries and it makes me so sad that I can’t make it go away. It’s not like the monster under the bed – I can’t tell him it’s just his imagination. I can only tell him that I understand, keep him as involved in Owen’s care as possible and remind him what a strong big brother he is and how much we and Owen love him and give him lots of hugs. Lots and lots of hugs, for sure.
Just like his brother, Kellen’s an amazingly resilient little boy who deserves accolades for being so strong and understanding this last year. I guess that’s a reminder more to myself than you readers – but I did want to remind you all how proud I am of my big boy too.